Homeless camp

Workers with Central Oregon Biosolutions gather personal items while dismantling a homeless camp on NE Second Street in Bend on March 14.

Gov. Tina Kotek’s request for millions to avert homelessness and aid housing is moving forward.

A legislative budget subcommittee voted Tuesday to advance a pair of bills that contain the money for her request and other related programs that she and lawmakers want to increase housing. Also part of the package is a related policy (House Bill 2001) that would enable the state to prod cities and Metro to plan for more housing production, combined with more help for homeless youths and more notice for evictions based on nonpayment.

The two bills now go to the Legislature’s joint budget committee, which is scheduled to take them up Friday, March 10. Assuming approval by the full committee, both bills will go first to the House, and then to the Senate, in up-or-down votes next week.

Between them, they propose spending about $220 million, $30 million of which will come from reallocated money in the state’s current two-year budget, and the rest to come from the next two-year budget that starts July 1.

“What we are doing here today will be regarded as one of the signature packages that we move forward this session,” said Rep. David Gomberg, a Democrat from the central coast and the House co-chair of the budget subcommittee.

Latching on to an analogy by Rep Kevin Mannix, R-Salem, who likened the package to the launching of ships, Gomberg added: “We are launching ships where boats have gone before — and we have not done enough.”

The plan fully funds Kotek’s request for $130 million, split between the two budget cycles, for temporary shelters, rapid re-housing of people who lose it, and rental assistance and other services to keep people from going back onto the streets.

Lawmakers added $27 million for assistance to the 26 counties not designated in Kotek’s executive order of Jan. 10, when she designated five regions (and 10 counties) where more than 75% of the estimated 18,000 in Oregon’s 2022 point-in-time counts of unhoused people originate. Though Kotek said last week the counts are “incomplete,” they also represent the best estimates available.

Programs in the five designated regions are eligible for state funds under Kotek’s order. The additional $27 million extends similar assistance to the rest of the state, including coastal and rural communities.

“I think that is a critical addition for me,” Gomberg said, as well as $25 million for programs for homeless youths. Gomberg said that in his coastal district, an estimated one of every five students has no permanent home.

Among the other budget add-ons are $20 million for modular housing, $5 million for more onsite housing for farmworkers, $5 million for Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes, and $3 million for communities and developers to jump-start construction for worker housing. The revolving loan fund is aimed at helping developers get advance help for such pre-construction expenses as permit fees and systems development charges.

The bulk of the money will go to the Oregon Department of Housing and Community Services for distribution to local agencies. Some will go to the Department of Land Conservation and Development for planning, and some to the Department of Emergency Management for coordinated emergency response under Kotek's Jan. 10 executive order.

“We strongly support this measure and its response to our urgent needs to prevent homelessness , to re-house families who are currently living without shelter and suffering all over our state,” Cameron Herrington said on behalf of the Oregon Housing Alliance. “We also believe that investments in this bill lay important groundwork for the (housing agency) budget for the coming biennium.”

Gomberg said lawmakers need to do more and will follow through as they work out details of the 2023-25 state budget.

“The funding request is at best a stopgap measure,” John Tapogna said on behalf of the Oregon Business Council. ”This humanitarian crisis has its roots in an undersupplied and overpriced market for housing. Until that is addressed, too many Oregonians will cycle in and out of homelessness. Those living on the streets today cannot wait to get our housing market in order. They need and deserve an immediate response.

“The governor’s focus gives us hope that we may see an easing of this crisis in 2023,” Tapogna, senior policy adviser and former president of the Portland firm ECONorthwest, added.

The money measure (House Bill 5019) contains a note that requires the Oregon Department of Housing and Community Services – and by extension, city, county and regional agencies – to inform lawmakers quarterly about how the state money is being spent.

“If asked, it is unlikely that any region could accurately report how much local agencies currently spend to address local homelessness,” Tapogna said.

The only dissenter on the subcommittee votes Tuesday was Rep. Jami Cate, R-Lebanon, who said she wants more information about where the needs are before lawmakers approve more money for state and local distributions.

But Mannix said he saw much good in the two bills and said: “Perfect is the enemy of the good.”

He and Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, joined the five Democrats in support.

Sign up for our newsletter

Get the best independent source of news and analysis of Oregon state government delivered to your inbox twice a week.

(1) comment


I suppose it's too much to ask her highness if she has any plan besides burning money to keep the homeless warm to FIX this problem. MultCo/CoP are already spending $250M/year on 5K homeless (= $50K/homeless/year) and not one bit of difference.

How about you guys look at this a bit more critically and ask questions instead of just regurgitating press releases? Oh, sorry, forgot that Kate 2.0 / Kotek will NEVER come out in public to answer ONE question.

Typical politician in our single-party state - Scared of disagreement and sneaky.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.