In December, Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) released a report to provide an update on the agency’s significant progress in meeting the goals outlined in the 2019 Statewide Housing plan “Breaking New Ground.” The agency is now slightly more than halfway into the five-year plan which was launched after extensive listening sessions across the state to illuminate areas of need and provide a direction-setting framework for OHCS to build support and coordinated action.
“Behind the numbers are tens of thousands of individuals and families that were able to move into a home. This report outlines a roadmap of solutions that work. For we know that investing in affordable housing is investing in family stability, children’s success and the economic health of our entire state,” said Director, Andrea Bell. “No family should have to struggle to find safe, quality, and affordable housing.”
The midway report details the tremendous progress made by the agency on the housing front, especially in the areas of increasing housing supply while housing instability and need are mounting. In the Letter from the Director, Andrea Bell centers the shared values of Oregonians while promising bold commitment to increase affordable housing:
“The collective accomplishments outlined in this report are a testament to the strength of our partnerships advancing shared values to ensure all Oregonians have a safe, affordable place to call home,” said Andrea Bell, OHCS Executive Director. “It’s increasingly evident the great need for housing of all types remains. For anyone struggling to get by, know that every moment of every day OHCS will be relentless, through the lens of humanity to increase access to affordable housing.”
The achievements outlined in the report are notable, given the immense scope of the challenges on the housing front. With less than 400 employees, OHCS is a comparatively small state agency with an oversized impact. (For example the Oregon Department of Transportation has more than 4700 employees.) In recent years the agency has quietly increased the volume and portfolio of affordable housing developments across the state. OHCS leverages the role of a housing finance agency by aggressively weaving together a variety of state and federal funds, bonds, tax credits, and other revenue streams to serve Oregonians across the full continuum of housing.
One example of an innovative funding approach to build more homes includes Oregon’s Local Innovative Fast Track (LIFT) funds that target funds to underserved communities, including rural communities and communities of color. As a result of this approach of funding, along with the work of staff and multiple partners across the state, OHCS recently surpassed the rural housing goal of funding 3,612 affordable homes in rural Oregon.
Other report highlights include the agency surpassing the goal of funding 1,200 Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) homes. PSH is a proven model of pairing housing and supportive services for individuals and families that chronically experience homelessness. The agency was recently recognized with a national award for this work. Perhaps the most ambitious progress made is on the goal of funding the development or preservation of 25,000 homes within five years. This goal is triple the previous work of the agency. Today the agency is on track to meet the goal with 20,624 homes in the development pipeline.
The progress in the report comes at a welcome time when homelessness and housing affordability are top of mind for Oregonians. The Oregon Housing Needs Analysis recently detailed the impact of decades of divestment in housing and other complex challenges which make any progress on the housing front difficult to gauge or celebrate. It’s clear that Oregonians desperately need more options. Moving forward the agency hopes to expand this work and has outlined these and other housing priorities in the 2023-2025 Agency Request Budget. You can read more about how the agency hopes to fund these priorities.
“I’m overjoyed to see this progress,” said Claire Hall, Chair of the Housing Stability Council, which strategically leads the agency’s work. “This is impressive work. Housing developments are complex transactions many years in the making. This report shows that tens of thousands of homes are in the pipeline and there will soon be keys in hands and roofs over heads. The tripling of the affordable housing development goal comes not a moment too soon at a time when Oregonians desperately need housing at prices they can afford.”
You can read more about the midway progress report on the OHCS website. The report is available in Spanish. The original Statewide housing plan can be found on the SWHP landing page. Please note the report is measured in fiscal years that will conclude in the summer of 2024. OHCS values community feedback and partnership. To follow this work and help inform future versions, please sign up to receive email updates and opportunities to engage.