Oregon Legislature approves $200 million housing package

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon House lawmakers on Wednesday advanced housing legislation to build more affordable housing, spend money to support homeless children and help people on the brink of homelessness.

The bills are moving next to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where they are likely to pass, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

The package, consisting of House Bills 2001 and 5019, would provide about $200 million to build more affordable housing in the state, rehouse about 1,200 people without homes, prevent homelessness for more than 8,000, and increase shelter capacity by 600 beds in one year . .

Rep. Emerson Levy, a Democrat who represents central Oregon, told colleagues before the vote about the former mayor of Bend, who died earlier this year.

“When I read recently that our former mayor, Craig Coyner … the former mayor of Bend, died recently homeless, his feet frozen, it broke my heart to be reminded that we are all human beings facing the challenges that may come our way.” , – said Levi. “We are at a crisis point and must move quickly to address our housing needs.”

Under the measure, cities with a population of more than 10,000 people would first have to set construction goals for specific income levels and then build the actual number of affordable housing units they deem necessary.

The legislation also seeks to streamline the often contentious and lengthy process of acquiring more land within urban growth for housing.

Passing a major housing policy at the start of the 2023 legislative session, which began in January and runs through June, is a boon for Gov. Tina Kotek, who last year advocated for swift action to address the housing crisis.

Some Republicans expressed concern that the measures would take away local control, but many expressed support for the effort.

“There are some things in the bill that I’m not crazy about,” said Rep. Kevin Mannix, R-Salem. “But there are a lot of good things and this is our opportunity to move forward.”

The law requires agencies or groups that receive public money to report quarterly to lawmakers on the number of people who find new housing or stay in their current home because of the dollars spent.

The package provides $25 million to fight youth homelessness, $20 million to help build modular housing, $3 million to help developers trying to build affordable homes, $5 million to help farmers improve living conditions for employees; and $27 million to help rural areas fight homelessness.

Anessa Hartman’s representative, Dr. Gladstone, said her life was turned upside down when she lost her job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Too many families are one paycheck away from eviction, and too many of our neighbors and homeless youth are struggling to find a way out … This is just the first step of many,” she said.

State lawmakers are expected to release their biennial budget proposal in the coming weeks, which is expected to include more money for housing and homelessness.

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