Housing Opportunity Progress in 2013 Session!

The Housing Alliance was formed because we all have a stake in addressing the problems our communities and neighbors are facing.  In Oregon, we know that housing gives people an opportunity to build better lives.

The 2013 Oregon Legislative Session brought huge accomplishments and made significant progress towards creating housing opportunity for Oregonians! While we know there is more to do so that all Oregonians have safe, decent, and affordable housing, we want to celebrate and take a moment to thank our members and partners who helped accomplish these goals.  We couldn’t have done this alone. Housing advocates are stronger when we work together.

Because of Legislative action, we will:

  • Create Housing for Veterans — We were able to help pass HB 2417, which added $5 to an existing document recording fee to create an ongoing, dedicated revenue source to fund housing for veterans. It will cover the continuum, including preventing or ending homelessness, offering short and long term rental assistance, developing housing with wrap around services, and will increase homeownership opportunities. We know everyone, including veterans, needs a safe, stable place to call home, and HB 2417 will help make sure more of Oregon’s veterans have the opportunity housing provides.
  • Protect Oregonians from Foreclosure — We were able to help pass SB 558 which expands mediation to homeowners facing judicial foreclosure, as well as some improvements to the law passed in 2012 (SB 1552).  We were also able to secure additional funds to help make sure the network of foreclosure counselors and legal assistance remains available in the 2013-15 biennium.
  • Preserve Existing Affordable Housing — Across the state, thousands of people with very low incomes live in homes with federal rent subsidies and in manufactured home parks.  Many of these homes are at risk of conversion to market rate, including some housing built and owned by non-profit partners statewide. We secured $5 million in Lottery Backed Bonds to fill financing gaps and preserve these affordable homes.  This amount will keep the project moving forward and will preserve additional homes across the state.
  • Remove barriers for tenants with Section 8 vouchers to renting homes in their preferred communities. HB 2639 included multiple strategies to ensure tenant success and clarifies that receipt of federal rent subsidies and other housing assistance – in particular Section 8 vouchers – is not grounds for denying tenancy.  We know that currently, too many Oregonians are struggling to find suitable housing, even with the aid of a housing choice voucher.   The proposal includes a risk mitigation pool for landlords who rent to tenants with Section 8 vouchers. A huge thank you to Speaker Kotek for her leadership on this effort.

The Housing Alliance supported our partners in reaching even more goals during the Legislative session.  Successes include:

  • Extending the sunset on the Agricultural Workforce Housing Tax Credit until 2020, a key tool for housing development.  Decent housing for workers in Oregon’s agricultural industry helps support a healthy rural economy, and meets the demands of our growing agricultural industry.
  • Helping to preserve manufactured home parks as affordable housing through the extension of two key tax incentives which help preserve manufactured home parks, one for park owners which provides a capital gains tax exemption for chosing to sell to an entity that will preserve the park as affordable housing – either a housing authority, non-profit, or resident cooperative, and a tax credit for residents who are facing park closure. HB 3482 was the Manufactured Home Park Landlord/Tenant Coalition bill which made updates to law governing park owners and residents.
  • Additional fixes to the critical Senior & Disabled Property Tax Deferral Program which helps protects seniors with low incomes and people with disabilities. Two bills, HB 2510 and HB 2489, added back people to the program after changes were made in 2011 that had unintended consequences.
  • Two critical property tax exemptions for affordable housing were extended or improved.  HB 2349 extended the sunset on the Homebuyer Opportunity Limited Tax Exemption Program which allows eligible homeowners to receive a ten year property tax exemption on structural improvements. And a second bill, HB 3112, clarified that properties owned by the City to provide affordable housing are tax exempt.
  • We were able to continue helping to protect vulnerable families with children through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).  The Legislature added an additional $5 million to the JOBS program to provide additional supports to families. Advocates were successful in ensuring the program will remain at a 60 month lifetime time limit.
  • We were able to extend the sunset on the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is one of the most effective programs to help low– and moderate-income families make ends meet. It creates a pathway out of poverty for Oregon families and helps them manage life’s many financial demands. Advocates were also supporting an expansion of the credit, but were unsuccessful in passing an expansion.
  • The Oregon IDA Initiative asked the Legislature to expand asset limits for Oregon Individual Development Account (IDA) Initiative participants to help build financial resilience and access opportunity.  Eligible participants with modest retirement savings are being turned away from the program due to current limits. The Legislature passed HB 2316, which exempts the first $60,000 of retirement savings in the calculation of net worth to build financial resilience and savings.
  • The Oregon Domestic and Sexual Violence Services (ODSVS) Fund received a significant expansion of over $4 million! This fund provides critical lifelines to Oregonians, providing emergency shelter, safety planning and support services for victims across the state. These services save lives, families and communities. In 2011, more than 20,000 requests for emergency shelter went unmet.
  • The Oregon Hunger Response Fund (formerly General Fund Food Program) received additional general fund dollars for 2013-15 biennium, resulting in a total of $2.7 million. This fund helps leverage the power of the Oregon Food Bank network by providing general fund dollars to help purchase food, transport food across the state, and ensure proper storage.

We are so excited and grateful to have been a part of such significant change this legislative session. We must continue to work to protect critical programs for Oregonians that need assistance. The Housing Alliance and housing advocates must continue to speak, and speak louder.

We must help legislators understand the impacts of their decisions on the people in their districts who need the opportunity that stable housing provides in order to fully engage in the life of their community.   There is still more to do, and the Housing Alliance will begin planning with a membership meeting on August 6, 2013. Email Alison to RSVP.