Oregon has already begun to fight the good fight with recent legislation to protect tenants from no-cause evictions and untenable rent hikes. But with half of all Oregon renter households spending more than 30% of their income on rent each month, we must do more. A Portland-area low-wage worker would need to work
81 hours a week to afford a roof over his head, and in 31 of Oregon’s 36 counties, minimum wage workers simply cannot afford even a one-bedroom apartment. In fact, according the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, there is not a single U.S. state in which such a worker, employed full time, can afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rates. Not a single one!
For families with children, unstable housing is a crisis that sets in motion a range of future impacts. When students must move from place to place, from school to school, learning continuity is threatened, and academic achievement is often unattainable. Permanent housing for families will pay dividends, giving our students a chance for success in school and in life.
Because affordable housing is one of the most serious challenges we face in Oregon, a broad array of governmental, non-profit, and private entities have been working to address the various issues impacting affordability, and I intend to join this community of activists, advocates, practitioners, and jurisdictions to advance policies designed to address this crisis in several significant ways.
The federal Section 8 program, as well as Oregon-based assistance, together meet the needs of just 51,000 of the more than 290,000 people who need help affording a place to live. Oregon could help the rest so that no one has to couch surf, live in their cars, or worst of all, pitch a tent along a freeway. This will involve a multi-tiered approach, to ensure that unhoused people’s various struggles – with poverty, mental illness, addiction, or failing health – are also addressed.
Permanent supportive housing (PSH) and Housing First for those who have fallen into a cycle of chronic homelessness have been proven strategies to tackle this challenge. Getting people off the streets and into stable units with support services really works! And it’s much less expensive than managing the impacts of chronic homelessness.
I will support the work of Community Development Corporations and public housers to build and retain affordable rental units and to provide rental assistance for lower-income families and individuals, including seniors, people with disabilities, and those who are just one paycheck or unexpected expense away from losing their housing.
Local governments have stepped up to provide new bonding resources for these efforts as well, and I know that it’s critical to ensure that state governments coordinates with them to leverage every dollar. I will also support efforts to create permanent affordable homeownership, working with such groups as Habitat for Humanity and Proud Ground.
How to pay for these ideas:
Hundreds of millions of dollars could be freed up to invest in this set of Humane Solutions by capping the mortgage interest tax break so that Oregon’s wealthiest no longer receive this homeowner subsidy.
In addition, the Oregon Legislature should refer to the ballot an amendment to enable counties to trigger an increase in value for the vacant, non-owner-occupied homes of affluent people who commercialize these residences in our neighborhoods. This would raise new revenue for housing the homeless and building new affordable units while also discouraging the traffic and neighborhood disruptions often accompanying online platform short-stay rentals.