Oregon lawmakers have approved more than $700 million for housing needs that go beyond the emergency prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to avoiding evictions and foreclosures, the 2021 Legislature aimed at increasing the supply of lower-cost housing, helping people without permanent shelter and reducing housing disparities faced by racial and ethnic minorities.
Lawmakers went well beyond what they did in 2019, when they barred no-cause evictions of renters and required cities of 10,000 or more (plus all cities within the Metro boundary) to allow for duplexes or other multifamily dwellings on land zoned for single-family homes.
"We … have gone to great lengths to keep Oregonians housed through a combination of compassionate policy and sound investments," House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said in a statement summarizing housing legislation. "While the work we've done has provided more stability for Oregonians, we'll need to maintain a crisis mindset going forward as we continue to work to solve the state's housing crisis."
The moratorium on evictions ended June 30, though the grace period for payments of past-due rent from the pandemic is extended by Senate Bill 282 to Feb. 28, 2022. Prompted by the slowness in state and federal funds for rental assistance reaching landlords, lawmakers gave tenants a 60-day safe harbor from evictions under Senate Bill 278 if they show proof they have applied for assistance.
"Evictions and foreclosures can have a generational devastating impact on families," Rep. Julie Fahey, a Democrat from Eugene and leader of the Housing Committee, said. She worked with Rep. Jack Zika, a Republican from Redmond, to craft both the state's original assistance of $200 million to landlords and tenants during the Dec. 21 special session — a month before the 2021 session got down to business — and the safe-harbor provision that passed in the session's final days. Federal aid boosted the available amount for rental assistance to around $500 million.
Lawmakers reinstated a separate moratorium on residential foreclosures in House Bill 2009, which currently runs through Sept. 30. Gov. Kate Brown can extend it by executive order once more through Dec. 30, if she gives advance notice.
Sen. Kayse Jama, D-Portland, was new both to the Legislature — he filled the seat vacated by Shemia Fagan when she was elected secretary of state — and to the Senate Housing and Development Committee. He said it was essential that lawmakers look beyond the years-long housing crisis and the effects of the pandemic.
According to a December 2019 report, Black homeownership rates in Oregon were 32.2%, compared with 65.1% for white households.
"The pandemic has only worsened existing inequities in our society, and there is so much clear data on housing disparities for communities of color," Jama said. "This work will continue during the interim and into the 2022 session."
Below is a list of housing legislation that passed, excluding the evictions and foreclosures measures mentioned above, and excluding $150 million that lawmakers approved for housing people displaced by the 2020 Labor Day wildfires:
• $47 million for increasing emergency shelter capacity and navigation centers for the next cold-weather season, including $26.5 million for low-barrier emergency shelters in eight cities ($2 million to Bybee Lakes Hope Center in Portland), $10.5 million for shelters in Salem and $9.7 million for additional motel-to-shelter Project Turnkey sites. One of those will be in Multnomah County.
• $25 million to assist communities with shelter operations and provide technical assistance.
• $20 million for the Behavioral Health Housing Incentive Fund.
• $12 million for rental assistance and service supports for permanent supportive housing.
• $10 million to Multnomah County for the construction of a behavioral health resource center in downtown Portland
• $3.6 million for providers serving unaccompanied unhoused youth (HB 2544)
• $1.2 million to improve the statewide data system on homelessness and service outcomes.
• Expediting emergency shelter siting by temporarily giving local governments more flexibility in siting emergency shelters to assist unhoused Oregonians (HB 2006).
• Modernizing the statewide housing and homeless assistance system and ensuring access to culturally specific and culturally responsive organizations (HB 2100).
• Protecting unsheltered Oregonians from fines or arrest for sleeping or camping on public property when there are no other options (HB 3115)
• $5 million for housing assistance for domestic violence/sexual assault survivors.
• $4.8 million for fair housing enforcement and education to the Fair Housing Council of Oregon, Oregon Department of Justice, and the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.
• $4.5 million to establish a long-term rent assistance fund for young adults under 25 who have been recently homeless or exiting foster care or juvenile corrections.
• $3 million to support community organizations that are distributing rent assistance or educating tenants.
• $1 million to the Oregon Law Center for legal assistance to renters and residents of manufactured home parks.
• Requiring landlords to conduct individualized assessments and consider supplemental evidence from applicants before denying an application for housing because of criminal history (SB 291).
• $20 million for down payment assistance, half to a revolving loan fund to help homebuyers with secondary loans and half to community culturally responsive organizations to increase homeownership opportunities.
• $20 million to provide flexible funding for affordable single-family construction and alternative ownership models such as co-ops.
• $10 million to create the Healthy Homes Program to provide grants for the repair and rehabilitation of homes of low-income households and communities disproportionately affected by environmental pollution or other hazards (HB 2842).
• $7 million to support manufactured home park residents with park acquisition loans and home decommissioning grants and replacement loans.
• $3 million for foreclosure avoidance counseling services to homeowners.
• $2 million to provide technical assistance and outreach to culturally specific organizations to reduce barriers to homeownership.
• $2 million to SquareOne for a shared-equity homeownership pilot with tiny homes.
• $1 million for a community pilot program that develops accessory dwelling units (ADUs) for income-eligible homeowners (HB 3335).
• Protecting homeowners from foreclosure during the pandemic (HB 2009).
• Addressing racial disparities in homeownership by requiring additional education on implicit and racial bias for mortgage loan providers, authorizing grants and technical assistance to organizations working to increase homeownership for low-income individuals and people of color, and renewing the Joint Task Force on Addressing Racial Disparities in Home Ownership to recommend further solutions (HB 2007 and SB 79).
• Strengthening Oregon's opportunity to purchase laws for manufactured home park residents (HB 2364).
• $410 million for housing construction through the Local Innovation Fast Track (LIFT) and Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) programs.
• $100 million to preserve existing affordable housing.
• $30 million for affordable housing or land acquisition revolving loan funds.
• $10 million for gap financing for affordable rental housing projects that are co-located with child care or early learning centers.
• $5 million for gap financing to affordable housing projects already approved that have experienced unexpected increases in construction costs during the pandemic.
• $4.5 million for grants and technical assistance to local governments for community planning and development code updates.
• $1.3 million to study the incorporation of regional housing needs analysis into state and local planning programs.
• $900,000 to study local system development charges and their impact on the cost of market-rate housing development (HB 3040).
• Increasing the limit for the state's agricultural housing tax credit from $7.25 million to $16.75 million per biennium to increase the construction, rehabilitation, or acquisition of agriculture workforce housing (HB 2433).
• Requiring local governments to allow the development of affordable housing projects on land within an urban growth boundary not zoned for residential use (SB 8).
• Reducing red tape for religious organizations to develop their properties for low-income housing and allowing the continuation of their property tax exemption (HB 2008).
• Establishing conditions under which local governments must allow land divisions for new middle housing development (SB 458).
• Requiring local governments to submit information to an online inventory of surplus public lands (HB 2918).
• Allowing counties to authorize owners of lots in rural residential zones to construct one accessory dwelling unit (ADU) (SB 391).