Oregon Exceeds Goals Set under Homelessness State of Emergency

The Office of Oregon Governor Tina Kotek announced on February 6 that the state had exceeded each of the three goals established through its “homelessness state of emergency.” Governor Kotek declared the state of emergency on her first full day in office as one of three executive orders meant to address the state’s housing and homelessness crisis (see Memo, 1/30/23). Final data from the year-long state of emergency demonstrate that the state surpassed its targets for each of its three goals: creating low-barrier shelter beds, rehousing people experiencing unsheltered homelessness, and preventing homelessness.

The state of emergency declaration gives the state government greater flexibility on how to spend taxpayer money and enforce land use laws. The order directs the Oregon Department of Emergency Management to activate the state’s Emergency Operations Plan and coordinate interagency efforts to respond to homelessness in areas of the state where unsheltered homelessness rose by more than 50% between 2017 and 2022. The executive order also authorizes Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) to repurpose up to $40 million to respond to the emergency. The passage of a $200 million housing and homelessness package in April 2023 provided further resources to carry out the executive order (see Memo, 4/17/23).

The 2023 state of emergency declaration included the goals of creating 600 new low-barrier shelter beds, rehousing 1,200 households experiencing unsheltered homelessness, and preventing 8,750 households from experiencing homelessness. An analysis of the first year of the state of emergency found that Oregon surpassed each of these goals: the state created 1,047 low-barrier shelter beds, rehoused 1,833 households experiencing unsheltered homelessness, and prevented 8,993 households from experiencing homelessness in the first place.

“The actions taken under Governor Kotek’s leadership have prevented homelessness for thousands of households and helped hundreds more regain housing,” said Cameron Herrington, director of the Oregon Housing Alliance. “These investments are working and must be continued. We also join the Governor in working to address the root causes of homelessness and evictions: the undersupply of affordable housing statewide.”

“Housing Oregon commends Governor Kotek for her decisive actions in addressing homelessness, as evidenced by Oregon exceeding its goals under the state of emergency,” said Kevin Cronin, director of policy and advocacy at Housing Oregon. “These achievements mark significant progress, yet we recognize the urgent need for sustained and increased investments to tackle the ongoing challenges in affordable housing. Our continued partnership and collective efforts are essential to ensure every Oregonian has access to stable and affordable housing.”

To build upon the milestones achieved under the state of emergency, Governor Kotek signed two executive orders on January 9. Executive Order 24-02 extends the state of emergency in areas of the state where it previously applied and recommits local agencies to the goals of preventing homelessness, rehousing, and adding shelter capacity. The executive order also directs OHCS to work with local communities to establish expanded rehousing and prevention goals, and to allow rehousing goals to encompass people experiencing both sheltered and unsheltered homelessness. The order also directs the Oregon Health Authority to address needs for greater alignment between behavioral health and homeless services systems and to leverage existing programs and budgets to meet these needs wherever possible. Executive Order 24-03 updates the mission of the state’s Interagency Council on Homelessness and expands its membership to include the Oregon Department of Emergency Management and Parks and Recreation Department.

Oregon faces a severe shortage of homes affordable and available to the lowest-income renters. According to NLIHC’s latest Gap report, there are only 23 affordable and available homes for every 100 extremely low-income (ELI) renter households in Oregon. Only one state (Nevada) has fewer homes affordable and available per ELI renter. Eighty percent of Oregon’s ELI renters are severely cost-burdened, putting them just one paycheck away from eviction and, in the worst cases, homelessness.

NLIHC’s state partner organizations, the Oregon Housing Alliance and Housing Oregon, will continue to advocate for further action to address the root cause of the state’s homelessness emergency and expand access to stable, affordable housing. In the 2024 five-week legislative session, the Oregon Housing Alliance and Housing Oregon are joining Governor Kotek in calling for $65 million to maintain homeless shelter operations for the remainder of the biennium (through June 2025), as well as an additional $40 million in emergency rent assistance to prevent evictions and homelessness. The Alliance is also advocating for:

  • $10 million for the state’s individual development account (IDA) program, which provides matched savings for low-income Oregonians to reach self-defined goals such as homeownership, home repair, and post-secondary education.
  • $30 million toward the preservation of the state’s existing infrastructure of affordable housing.
  • $15 million to build new homes for first-time homebuyers, including homes kept permanently affordable through a land trust or limited-equity cooperative.
  • A $2 million grant program for community-based organizations to provide outreach, education, and resource navigation services to tenants of affordable housing properties with expiring affordability restrictions.

In addition to supporting the Housing Alliance and Governor Kotek’s priority housing investments, Housing Oregon is advocating for:

  • $100 million in targeted infrastructure investments that target shovel-ready housing projects.
  • $10 million for the Affordable Housing Land Acquisition fund.
  • $11.5 million in investments in climate resiliency for low-income residents, for purchasers like air conditioners and heat pumps.

For more information about the Oregon Housing Alliance, visit: https://www.oregonhousingalliance.org/

For more information about Housing Oregon, visit: https://housingoregon.org/