SALEM —Breaking New Ground, Oregon’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.
The lack of available housing and slow housing production over the past two decades has contributed to rising rents and low vacancy, causing housing instability and homelessness to increase rapidly. Housing development has failed to keep up with Oregon’s population growth leading to an imbalance between supply and demand. From 2000 to 2015, an additional 155,156 homes would need to have been built throughout Oregon to keep up with demand.
Because of the tight housing supply, Oregon’s rents continue to drastically outpace the relative growth in incomes, which means that too many Oregonians are paying more for housing than they can afford. Across the State, 27% of renter households have a “severe housing cost burden,” meaning they spend more than half of their income on housing and utilities. This hits lower-income Oregonians hard when choosing between paying for shelter and other basic necessities.
This challenge is even more pronounced for communities of color. More than half of African American households, Native American/Alaska Native/ Pacific Islander households and households of “other race” or “two or more races” are spending more than 30% of their income on rent, compared to 34% of White households.
Evidence shows that providing more affordable housing increases financial stability and allows families to prioritize spending on what matters most, including food, healthcare, transportation, and saving for college or retirement.
Building More Affordable Housing
At OHCS, we are working hard to close the affordable rental housing gap and reduce the housing cost burden for Oregonians. We have worked closely with our development partners to respond to the ongoing housing crisis with record production of new affordable housing, including a pipeline of more than 9,800 homes. Despite this incredible effort, evidence suggests that it remains an insufficient response. Breaking New Ground emphasizes the importance of providing an increased supply of affordable rental homes.
Over the next five years, our goal is to triple the existing pipeline of affordable rental housing — up to 25,000 homes in the development pipeline. This focus on the production of new, affordable homes will serve to expand housing choices for residents and provide more opportunities for prosperity and self-sufficiency. This is an historic level of production, and it will take new partnerships across the state to make this vision a reality. As the State’s Housing Finance Agency, it is our responsibility to ensure that funding for the development of affordable housing is adequate, equitable, and predictable. This includes delivering on historic legislative investments and embracing strategies to expedite the development of affordable housing through streamlined funding applications and efforts to build capacity with local development partners.
Reduce Cost Burden
It is important to remember, as we focus on closing the affordability gap, producing additional affordable homes alone may not decrease the cost burden experienced by Oregon households.
Other costs, such as utilities and transportation also play into a person’s housing costs. To reduce these, we must take advantage of opportunities to provide affordable housing in transportation-efficient locations that reduce travel time for residents of OHCS-funded properties. Transit-oriented developments reduce the housing and transportation cost burden of residents.
Additionally, through programs like the Low Income Weatherization Assistance Program, Home Energy Assistance Program, Oregon Energy Assistance Program, Oregon Multifamily Energy Program, and the standardization of development practices through the Project Development Manual, we are employing new approaches for energy and weatherization to improve the energy-efficiency of OHCS-funded properties. These efforts will lower utility costs and may lessen our environmental impact, a win-win.
A Collective Effort
OHCS would not be able to meet its mission of providing housing for low-income Oregonians without the expertise, knowledge and collaboration of its many partners. As we strive to achieve the priorities set forth in the Statewide Housing Plan, OHCS will be working closely with developers who build, own, and operate the affordable housing; service providers who enrich the lives of residents; local governments who aid in the permitting, processing, and reviewing of development applications; and most importantly, our neighbors who live and grow in the OHCS-funded housing. OHCS cannot solve this crisis alone. The collective efforts of all players in this system can do far more to close the affordable housing gap if we work together.
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