Bringing Back the American Dream of Homeownership for Oregonians

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SALEM —Breaking New GroundOregon’s five-year Statewide Housing Plan, articulates how Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) will pave the way for more Oregonians to have access to housing opportunities and achieve housing stability and self-sufficiency through six policy priorities. These priorities include equity and racial justice, ending unsheltered homelessness for Oregon’s Veterans and children, permanent supportive housing, bridging the affordable rental housing gap through an ambitious rental housing production agenda, expanding homeownership opportunities and addressing the housing needs of rural Oregon.

With a strong economy and abundant natural beauty, Oregon continues to be the desired home for many and has seen rapid population growth since 2010. While this is great news for current homeowners who have seen significant real estate equity gains, many Oregonians have been challenged by our limited housing supply. Incomes have not kept pace with rising home prices making it difficult for new, would-be homeowners to obtain the American Dream.  

Homeownership stabilizes families and creates opportunity to increase wealth for existing and future generations. Today, families are being outpriced from homeownership in the communities they have called home for generations. Gentrification has uprooted communities in urban and rural Oregon. Rising prices in urban areas are creating pressures for people to move into smaller communities in search of affordability. This, coupled with limited housing development in rural areas, creates supply and demand issues in rural Oregon and adds transportation considerations that impact a commute, a budget and our planet. 

“The truth is that homeownership is out of reach for too many Americans.” Julian Castro, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development 2014-2017

In addition, homeownership in Oregon and across the nation has a history of striking disparities for communities of color. Across the income spectrum, people of color in Oregon have lower homeownership rates than white Oregonians. While 63% of white households own homes, only 42% of Latino and Non-White households can say the same. Since 2005, African American and Native American homeownership rates have been on the decline (from 34% to 30% and 46% to 42% respectively).  OHCS’ is committed to ending these disparities by using an equity and racial justice lens to help close the racial homeownership gap. Working with OHCS partners, non-profit housing organizations, banks, and lenders, we are extending resources to break down barriers and create pathways to homeownership for people of color.

OHCS’ programs focus on helping Oregonians create a path to homeownership and assisting current homeowners in sustaining the American Dream. The Homeownership Assistance Program delivers financial coaching and counseling to prepare Oregonians to buy a home and offers down payment and home repair assistance. The Oregon Bond Residential Loan program is another important tool to create homeownership by offering low-interest rates and closing cost assistance to moderate-income Oregonians. In addition, the Individual Development Account program provides home buyers with an opportunity to create savings through matching funds coupled with financial and homebuyer education. These services are delivered through non-profit homeownership centers across the state. Successful homeownership is not just putting people into homes, it’s also making sure people have the resources to stay in their homes. The Oregon Housing Stabilization Initiative does just that with hands-on assistance performed by HUD-certified homeownership counselors in each corner of the state. 

In 2018, OHCS helped create more than 1,100 new homeowners, up from 640 in 2017. In addition, OHSI’s programs have helped prevent the loss of home through foreclosure for over 14,000 households since the program’s inception in 2010. There are thousands of success stories across the state. One particularly heartwarming story is that of a homebuyer named Karla, a resident of Ontario. Over the course of just three years Karla moved from homelessness to homeownership. She found stabile housing, established a savings plan, and accessed down payment assistance funding to purchase her home. Karla’s story is just one of thousands. And this work is just the beginning. 

Over the next five years, we will strive to create more homeowners than any other period before. We will double the number of homeowners of color in our homeownership programs as part of a concerted effort to bridge the homeownership gap for communities of color and address the grave disparities we see statewide. Homeownership must be attainable and in reach if we are going to address both housing stability and prosperity for generations of Oregonians. It is time to create a state where the American Dream is within reach for all. 

 

About Author

Margaret Salazar is the Director of Oregon Housing and Community Services. She has dedicated her career to creating opportunities through stable housing, most recently as the Director of the Portland Field Office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. As an Oregon native, Director Salazar is proud to advance OHCS mission of providing stable and affordable housing to address poverty and provide opportunity for Oregonians.

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