Final recap and thank you – 2017 Legislative Session

An end-of-session message from the Housing Alliance:

Dear Housing Alliance Members and Supporters:
After a week of reflection on the 2017 Legislative session, we wanted to share some of our thoughts with you, and our appreciations.

We knew going into the 2017 Legislative session that housing was going to be a big topic. Across Oregon, our communities are facing a severe housing crisis with people experiencing extreme rent increases, no cause evictions, low vacancy rates, homelessness, and more.  We knew that the 2017 Legislative session was going to be difficult – the state was facing a $1.6 billion shortfall, and new investments for housing seemed unlikely.

We also knew we needed a bold legislative agenda designed to address the wide-ranging scope of our housing crisis. To truly address our housing needs, we needed to invest in more affordable homes, to provide basic protection to people who rent their homes, and to prevent and end homelessness.

That meant we needed additional resources for emergency rent assistance, protections for tenants, more affordable housing, preserving all of our existing affordable housing, affordable homeownership opportunities, and stability for current homeowners. We built the 2017 Housing Opportunity Agenda together, through workgroups and a new coalition process, and our agenda addressed the range of needs we saw within our communities.

We went into session united in our desire to advocate for our communities, and for the wide range of solutions designed to begin to address our housing crisis.

Committees heard our proposals, and the vast majority of our Housing Opportunity agenda advanced through the process. We testified, advocated, and created legislative champions. As the Housing Alliance, we came to the Capitol by the hundreds on March 22nd and May 18th.

We came to the Capitol as service providers, executive directors, policy directors, clients, tenants, people experiencing homelessness, developers, faith leaders, advocates, and as community members. We spoke up for the need for housing opportunity in our communities, and our legislators listened and responded.  We advanced significant pieces of legislation through the process, and more than ever before, our legislators understood the housing needs in their communities.

Our coalition was united in our agenda and our interests. We sought to improve housing opportunity for all of our residents, and when all was said and done, our state made progress. The Legislature invested $80 million in bonds for new construction, $25 million in bonds to preserve existing affordable housing, additional resources for a tax credit to build more affordable homes, and a huge investment of $40 million in emergency rent assistance. The Legislature also passed bills to restart a renter education guarantee fund, to create a land acquisition fund, to help preserve affordable housing, and to allow churches to build affordable housing on their land, among other things. The Legislature stepped up in a huge way to fund and invest these critical resources in affordable housing.

There were disappointments along the way as well – the Legislature failed to act to protect Oregonians who rent their homes from discriminatory and retaliatory no-cause evictions and from unchecked rent increases. HB 2004 died on the Senate President’s desk without ever receiving a full vote of the Senate, despite all of the work poured into this effort and the important need this bill sought to address.  As a result of this inaction by the Legislature, people will continue to lose their homes through no fault of their own.

The Legislature also failed to find enough resources to provide foreclosure counseling at current levels. Counseling agencies will do their best to serve people with the resources available for as long as they exist.

We have more work to do, but for now, we celebrate the investments in housing opportunity.  We celebrate that more Oregonians will have access to safe and stable homes through investments in preservation and new construction. We celebrate that more Oregonians will find an answer to their phone calls looking for emergency rent assistance.  We celebrate all of you and your incredible hard work to come to the Capitol, to tell your stories, to educate legislators, to testify, to advocate, and to build a movement for housing.

And then we roll up our sleeves and go back to work to build more champions, create more solutions, and know that someday everyone in our state will have a safe, stable, and affordable place to call home.


Alison McIntosh and Jenny Lee