Unlocking Housing Opportunities with Innovation

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Oregon is embracing bold approaches to expand housing opportunities across the state

In the 2023-25 Governor’s Recommended Budget (GRB), Governor Kotek has prioritized historic  mission focused investments to dramatically expand housing supply in our state. One concrete example is the largest-ever single investment in Oregon’s Local Innovation and Fast Track (LIFT) Housing Program.  

“These investments will help improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of Oregonians across the state in attaining safe and affordable housing,” said Executive Director Andrea Bell. “Our state is at an inflection point. We are grateful to Governor Kotek for having the foresight to invest in this impactful program. Together we recognize investments in housing are also investments in families, health and thriving communities.”

LIFT is an innovative financing approach launched in 2016 (Senate Bill 1582) with the goal of creating affordable homes focused on rural communities and communities of color residing across Oregon. The LIFT program explicitly addresses disproportionate housing affordability challenges in communities large and small.

As the state’s housing finance agency, OHCS leverages the ability to weave together a variety of state and federal funds, bonds, tax credits and other revenue streams in order to stretch dollars to get more housing built for Oregonians. By using Article Xl-Q General Obligation bonds for the construction of affordable housing, Oregon was able to take a new approach to ensure federal funds (4% Low Income Housing Tax Credits) weren’t being left “on the table.” This innovative approach helped “unlock” untapped federal financing to get more housing in the pipeline.

This “fast tracking” of housing development is paying off at a time when Oregon desperately needs more housing: The LIFT program has dramatically created the opportunity to get more homes built. To date, LIFT has funded more than 6,845 new affordable homes (including both rental apartments and homeownership opportunities), 2,816 of these homes are located in rural communities.

OHCS’ recent progress in financing a record number of rural homes in development wouldn’t have been possible without the LIFT program, which is an incredible driver of production. LIFT provided resources to ramp up and support the construction potential of small towns and rural communities alongside new service partnerships to meet the needs of communities of color.

In 2021, NW Cottages in Bend opened their doors to new homeowners. Bend-Redmond Habitat for Humanity built the nine cottages.

This program wouldn’t be possible without the support and investments from the Oregon Legislature. Today, homes funded with LIFT financing for rent or purchase are coming online and new residents are getting keys to safe and affordable housing. The program has resulted in tangible housing gains for some of the most historically underserved communities in Oregon, including communities of color in both rural and urban areas. Many of the complex financing structures that got these developments off the ground would never have been viable without LIFT.  The program continues to expand housing opportunity around the state and create homes that will be affordable for generations to come.

About Author

Kate Gonsalves is the Director of Communications for Oregon Department of Early Learning and Care.

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