Oregon legislators propose $400M to address homelessness and housing

On Thursday, Oregon legislators proposed a $400 million package for affordable housing and homelessness.

Oregon legislators propose $400M to address homelessness and housing

This is a state with one of the highest levels of unhoused persons in the country.

According to a 2020 federal review, 35 Oregonians are homeless per 10,000. Only three states had a higher homelessness rate than Oregon: New York (47 residents per 10,000), Hawaii (46.6 people per 10,000), and California (41 inhabitants per 10,000).

The majority Democrats' plan, which was presented during Oregon's short legislative session, would allocate $165million to address immediate homelessness in Oregon -- including outreach and shelter capacity expansion to vulnerable populations -- $215 million for affordable housing, and $20 million to help with home ownership.

Julie Fahey, House Majority Leader, stated that Oregonians have expressed their desire to see "actions to address homelessness and housing affordability as well as solutions that work."

Officials hope that the proposed package will not only provide assistance for those currently experiencing homelessness but also addresses some of the root causes.

Project Turnkey would receive $50 million as part of $165 million in funding for homelessness. This money is used to buy and repurpose hotels and other buildings that can be converted into shelter.

Additional $80 million will be used to address immediate state needs such as rapid rehousing. $25 million will go to local governments for specific community needs -- including shelter, outreach and clean-up.

Ted Wheeler, Portland Mayor, is leading a lobbying effort for the state to fund emergency shelters for homeless people.

Multnomah County includes Portland and has the ability to house approximately 1,400-1,500 people throughout the year. Multnomah County had approximately 4,000 homeless people in 2019. However, local advocates believe that this number has increased substantially in recent years.

Wheeler blamed the shortage of beds on state leaders who, he claimed, have underinvested for temporary shelters in comparison to neighboring states.

Wheeler stated that the state government must match funding levels for temporary shelter expansions and to save lives. This is not a Portland problem.

Rep. David Gomberg (Democrat from Oregon's Central Coast) said that "Our rural and coastal communities experience the highest levels of child homelessness in the State."

Advocates in Oregon claim that Oregon's root cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing. This problem has been an ongoing issue for the state, but it has been made worse by the pandemic.

A study by Oregon states that Oregon must build more affordable homes in the next 20-years and keep existing homes intact.

Affordable housing is being proposed by lawmakers to receive $165 million. This investment will support affordable housing construction projects that are experiencing market and supply disruptions, as well as acquiring and producing manufactured housing park and supporting land acquisitions for other projects.

Fahey admitted that although some of the investments might have an immediate effect, the problems facing the state are not going away overnight.

Fahey stated, "We need to think about things that will make an impact in the short-term." Fahey said, "But also planning for the long-term and addressing root causes of problems."