Oregon Housing and Community Services provides affordable homes for more than 25,000 individuals and families across Oregon
Last month the state’s housing agency announced the surpassing of a momentous milestone. At a time when housing is a top concern for Oregonians across the state, Oregon Housing and Community Services surpassed their Statewide Housing Plan goal to fund or preserve more than 25,000 affordable homes a full year ahead of schedule.
“When we promised to achieve these goals, we did so knowing lives would forever be changed,” said Andrea Bell, OHCS Director. “We kept those future families in mind as we invested in housing, braided funding for impact, centered equity in every step and launched innovative ways of doing business. This historic achievement embraces the recognition that galvanizing and aligning towards our state’s highest values can achieve results.”
To ramp up housing production the agency had to be innovative. Tripling the existing affordable funded housing developments in the pipeline took hard work, creativity, and flexibility. For example, during the pandemic, OHCS heard from concerned partners facing unanticipated construction costs and escalating delays. To be responsive OHCS launched new “cost offset” financing that ensured hundreds of homes that were set to be built in communities around the state continued on track. At a time when deals were falling apart and Oregonians desperately needed housing, OHCS was able to break down systemic barriers and quickly respond to urgent challenges to preserve and produce affordable housing.
As a result of these and other innovative approaches, in addition to surpassing the 25,000 goal, the agency recently surpassed the ambitious Statewide Housing Plan Goal to finance the building of over 2,500 homes in rural Oregon within five years. This goal helps to address the significant and uniquely challenging housing shortages across rural areas. As a result of this work more than 4,000 families in rural Oregon will soon have keys to their own home. Last year the agency also exceeded the permanent supportive housing goal with the funding of more than 1,200 new permanent supportive homes. The homes will expand the state’s supply of affordable housing designed to serve households experiencing chronic homelessness, ensuring that the housing being built is for all Oregonians, even those with the highest need.
These wide-ranging housing developments include buildings with focus for specialized population such as those for veterans, wildfire survivors and culturally specific groups. Some properties include three and four bedroom apartments that help keep large families together while others include state of the art energy efficiencies and climate resiliency measures. Many buildings incorporate trauma-informed design principles with natural lighting and common areas. While the majority of affordable housing proposals in the OHCS portfolio are large developments, other types of affordable properties include fourplexes, cottage clusters and other options which help increase housing choice through diversity and access.
“At a time when lack of affordable housing is the cause of sleepless nights and a worry that too many people wake up to, we must be emboldened in striving to be a housing finance agency that holds a vision for what is possible”, said Director Bell. “Through the lens of humanity, together we will continue to be relentless in pursuit of sustaining and building upon this historic progress that everyone can benefit from.”
Despite meeting these aggressive goals there is a great deal more work ahead. OHCS has deep relationships with partners and recognizes the agency cannot, and did not, do this work alone. Today, a new momentum of focus and energy is building across Oregon to address the longstanding and growing need for housing. Governor Tina Kotek has made housing her top priority, launching three Executive Orders in her first week of office and calling on the Oregon legislature to make unprecedented investments in housing. Communities in all corners of the state are aligned in a common focus to work towards housing solutions.
“We look forward to sustaining and building upon this progress as this is directly tied to the health of our economies. Oregon remains at an inflection point,” said Director Bell. “Every level of government is launching into new partnerships outside of traditional silos and partnering to work across systems towards a shared goal of scaling up housing and supports to create an Oregon where everyone can thrive.”
Colonia Paz in Lebanon, OR providing housing for farmworkers and their families.
Keystone in Eugene, first permanent supportive housing development to open.
Hattie Redmond in the Albina neighborhood, the historic center of Portland’s Black/African American community.
Article provided by Kate Gonsalves