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Gov. Tina Kotek speaks in support of Senate Bill 1537 last month.
Saundra Sorenson
Published: 06 March 2024

Two bills to amp up affordable housing production, homeless services and wraparound eviction prevention services were approved by Oregon lawmakers when the bills were both passed by the state House on Monday.

Gov. Tina Kotek made housing a central tenet of her platform during her run for governor last year.

In supporting the bills, Kotek’s office confirmed a housing deficit of 140,000 units statewide; in order to meet that need, the state will need to permit about 36,000 new units each year.

Senate Bill 1537, which Kotek called “bold and balanced,” establishes a state Housing Accountability and Production office to facilitate these changes, and to make sure developments are in compliance with land use codes.

The bill also earmarks $75 million for the Housing Project Revolving Loan Fund, which will provide local governments interest-free loans to develop affordable housing.

“I want to praise the legislature for doing the housing needs analysis work last year with HB 2001,” Kotek said.

“Our communities said, ‘We need help.

"We need those model codes that the housing office can provide…we need technical assistance. We need infrastructure.’”

One of the more controversial aspects of the bill will let cities opt in to a one-time exception to urban growth boundaries, allowing cities with 25,000 residents or more to expand by up to 100 residential acres. Cities below that population have the option to expand by up to 50 residential acres. Projects developed within such boundaries will be required to offer 30% of residential units under affordability restrictions for at least 60 years.

The Sierra Club Oregon Chapter objected to the bill on these grounds.

"If allowed to continue, sprawling new subdivisions on the outskirts of metro areas threaten to use up the precious infrastructure dollars needed to complete neighborhoods that are inside of existing urban growth boundaries,” chapter director Damon Motz-Storey testified on behalf of the organization. “Building at the very outer edge of metro areas means putting people in areas that are more likely to burn in a wildfire, areas where people are forced to drive long distances by car.”

Many groups that advocate for BIPOC Oregonians support the bill.

The Community Alliance of Tenants called the bill "a transformative proposal to tackle Oregon's acute housing supply and affordable crisis."

"The provisions outlined in SB 1530 demonstrate a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach that addresses the complex challenges faced by African American communities,”  David Greenidge, a member of the Coalition of African American Pastors, said. “From promoting inclusive zoning practices to expanding housing assistance programs, this bill shows a genuine commitment to eradicating housing inequities.”

Senate Bill 1530 earmarks $25 million for the Albina Vision Trust’s purchase and redevelopment of the former Portland Public Schools headquarters into affordable housing units.

Additionally, the bill also allocates the following from the state's general fund:

  • $65 million to operate emergency shelters and to support Project Turnkey, a program that purchases and renovates motels into long-term residential units and provides support to tenants;
  • $34 million for homelessness prevention services like Oregon Eviction Diversion and Prevention and other, culturally responsive, eviction prevention rapid response organizations;
  • $7 million to fund the Urban League of Portland’s homelessness prevention services;
  • $5 million in matching funds for individual development accounts;
  • $1 million for Seeding Justice, which provides tenant education and support for those whose publicly supported housing is at risk of being reclassified, and for those who live in mobile home communities that have been sold or are closing;
  • $1 million to the Community Warehouse, which provides reused household furnishings to low-income households;
  • $1.25 million to the Center for African Immigrants and Refugees Organization’s purchase and redevelopment of property into affordable housing;
  • $3 million to the Center for Intercultural Organizing’s purchase and development of property on East Burnside Street into affordable housing.

She noted that funds allotted for eviction prevention and rapid response would support initiatives like Urban League’s Empowerment program, which Holland said served more than 1,200 Black Oregonians and others across 13 cities last year.

Holland added, “We cannot afford to ignore the disproportionate impact of this pandemic on our community in the face of Covid-19 stabilization programs ending.” 

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