Oregon House Passes $200 Million for Housing and Homelessness


By Julia Shumway

Oregon is on track to spend $200 million to help homeless residents move into houses, give people who have fallen behind on rent more time to pay and create new goals for cities to build homes under a pair of measures approved Wednesday by the state House.

House Bill 2001 and House Bill 5019 passed on 50-9 and 49-10 votes, respectively, with only Republicans opposed. The bills now head to the Senate, where a vote is expected early next week. If they pass, as predicted, Gov. Tina Kotek is expected to sign them.

The measures are an initial step toward addressing the state’s homelessness crisis and housing shortage, supporters said. At least 18,000 Oregonians are homeless, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and many more live precariously, struggling to make rent or mortgage payments on unaffordable homes. The state needs to build roughly 550,000 new homes over the next two decades after years of building fewer homes than needed for the state’s growing population, according to the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development.

“This is a decades-long deficit that won’t be fixed in one year,” said Rep. Maxine Dexter, D-Portland and chair of the House’s housing committee. “We have much work to do.”

The roughly $200 million total in the two bills would be split between the current budget, which ends June 30, and the new two-year budget that begins July 1. Lawmakers are likely to allocate more money toward housing and homelessness when they introduce a full budget for the next two years later this spring.

Lawmakers also may continue tweaking some policies, including changes to the state’s land use system. Kotek has set a goal of building 36,000 new homes per year and last week convened a council that is expected to produce a plan for how to meet that goal by April 1.

Along with providing more money, the bills would extend eviction notice periods for missing rent from three days to 10 days, giving renters more time to catch up on late rent. They also would require Oregon Housing and Community Services to give each city with more than 10,000 residents an annual target for building new subsidized and market-rate homes. The state would help cities meet the state’s goals and could punish recalcitrant cities by forcing them to forfeit grants or other state funding.

That aspect caused some Republicans, including Rep. Ed Diehl, R-Stayton, to vote against the measures. Diehl said cities should be able to make their own decisions about where and how to grow.

“It basically says to cities, you’re going to grow and you’re going to do it our way,” Diehl said.

Republican Reps. Shelly Boshart Davis of Albany, Jami Cate of Lebanon, Christine Goodwin of Canyonville, Emily McIntire of Eagle Point, Lily Morgan of Grants Pass, Virgle Osborne of Roseburg, E. Werner Reschke of Klamath Falls and Brian Stout of Columbia City joined Diehl in voting against both bills. Rep. Rick Lewis, R-Silverton, voted against the funding in HB 5019 but for the policy changes in HB 2001.

Reschke said it wasn’t prudent to spend hundreds of millions of dollars early in the legislative session in an uncertain economy. He also opposes the state’s focus on getting people into housing before focusing on mental health or addiction issues that can contribute to homelessness.

“When a person is given a home with no responsibility or accountability, all we have done is move the problem indoors,” Reschke said.

For the full story, see the Oregon Capital Chronicle.


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