One in three Oregon families struggle to afford housing, and renters have been hit especially hard, says a new report detailing the extent of the state’s housing crisis.
The report, published by the Oregon Center for Public Policy last week, quarter of all renters in the state spend more than half their income on housing, and that half of all renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines anyone who spends more than 30 percent of their income on housing (including utilities) as “cost-burdened.” In 2016, the report says, Oregon had about 298,000 cost-burdened renter households, more than the total number of households in Portland. About 85 percent of households making less than $25,000 and living in rental properties were cost-burdened in 2016. Nearly two-thirds of all low-income renter families spent more than half their income on rent and utilities that year, the report said.
The report also notes the crisis has disproportionately affected Oregonians of color, who are far more likely to rent and who report lower incomes than non-Hispanic White households. One-third (35 percent) of Oregon’s non-Hispanic White households are renters, majorities of all communities of color rent, except for Asian Americans. Seven in 10 households with members identifying as Black or African American are renters.
“Low-income renters stand at the epicenter of Oregon’s housing crisis,” said Center analyst Daniel Hauser in a press release accompanying the report, which was published March 15. “Oregon lawmakers need to devote their attention and resources to helping these families.”
The crisis has affected homeowners as well as renters: according to the OCPP’s analysis of U.S. Census American Community Survey data, 24 percent of Oregon households – about 234,000 households total -- headed by homeowners were cost-burdened. About 92,000 (or 9 percent) of homeowning Oregon households were severely cost-burdened.
Moderate-income Oregonians also struggle with housing costs, according to the report. More than half of Oregon renter households making between $25,000 and $50,000 per year were cost burdened in 2016.
The Center for Public Policy, a nonprofit progressive think tank, drew on census data and HUD publications for its analysis. In the press release, Hauser praised the Oregon legislature’s recent decision to raise the state’s document recording fee, which is expected to generate some $60 million per budget period to invest in affordable housing, and said lawmakers need to find additional ways to fund affordable housing.