Mid-Session Update

Wow! It’s hard to believe, but we are almost half way through the 2019 Legislative session! So far, we have accomplished a lot, and we still have a lot more work to do.  We wanted to post an update about where we are in the Legislative session, and share how you can continue to weigh in with your Legislators about the importance of every Oregonian having a safe, stable, and affordable place to call home.

We are officially half way through the Legislative session, and the first set of deadlines has arrived. Our Housing Opportunity Agenda is making progress!

What we’ve accomplished so far

We had a huge victory early in session with the passage of one of our major priority bills, SB 608. SB 608 provides basic protection against no-cause evictions and extreme rent increases. SB 608 moved quickly through the Senate and House chambers, and was signed by the Governor into law on February 28, 2019. The bill is now law! This bill was the result of so many Legislative champions, people who rent their home who spoke up, advocates, and others working for years to pass these basic protections. Read more about what SB 608 means for renters.

That’s not all that has happened! We have been busy moving our other bills through their Committees, and onto floor votes. With a few days left until the deadline, we expect all of the bills on our Housing Opportunity Agenda and our list of endorsements to meet this deadline and continue moving through the process.

We also had an incredibly successful Housing Opportunity Day on March 14! Advocates came from Portland, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Oregon City, Eugene, Roseburg, The Dalles, Newport, Coos Bay, Florence, Springfield, and more, to share with Legislators why having a safe, stable, and affordable place to call home matters. Thank you to all of you who joined us, traveling for hours to help share your stories with Legislators. Thank you for your time, your energy, your enthusiasm, your kindness and compassion, and your LOVE! You can see photos from the day!

What’s happening with the budget?

In mid-March, the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development (the budget subcommittee in charge of working on the OHCS budget), held hearings with testimony from Oregon Housing and Community Services on March 19, 20, 21, and then on Monday, March 25, the Committee heard public testimony on the budget.

This budget bill, SB 5512, will be where important investments are made, such as investments in the Emergency Housing Account and State Homeless Assistance Program, investments in ending homelessness for children and families, resources to support renters with access to education, training, and legal assistance, and more. The budget hearings were also an opportunity to advocate for investments in new affordable rental housing and affordable homes for sale, and resources to maintain our existing affordable housing.

We had 30 people come to speak in support of the budget, and what is included in the Governor’s Budget for Housing. People who build affordable housing, people who live in affordable housing, as well as teachers, members of our State’s Housing Stability Council, people who support tenants, people who provide emergency meals, and more. Many more wrote letters in support. Thank you!

Now that the public hearings on the budget have ended, we will be working with Legislators to help them understand how critical these investments are, and we need your help! Now is the time to email your Representative and Senator, and ask them to support one of our investments in housing opportunity. There are so many opportunities for the state to invest in smart solutions to the housing challenges our communities are facing – you can pick what’s important to you, and email or call your Legislator, and ask for their support.

What is left to do?

While all of our policy bills have made it through the first deadline, that is only half way through the process!

  • Some of our bills have already had a vote on the floor, and passed! (Others are still working their way to the floor.) Now they head to their next stop – a policy committee in the next chamber. (HB 2812, a bill which finalizes our changes to allow people who earn up to 100% of the area median income to access the Home Ownership Assistance Program; or HB 2916, which makes changes to tiny-home villages for people experiencing homelessness.)
  • Most of our bills have had a vote in their policy committee, and instead of heading to the floor, they are headed to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means because they are requests for resources. (HB 2894 and HB 2895, which will help people replace their aging manufactured homes; or HB 2802, which will help provide basic health and safety repairs to people with low incomes who own their homes; or HB 2002, which would allocate $25 million to help maintain existing affordable housing, and extend the right of first refusal to all affordable housing, just to name a few!)

What are my opportunities to weigh in?

While some of our major opportunities for public testimony have passed, there is still work to do to ensure the Legislature takes action to create housing opportunity in 2019.

How can you help?

  1. Take a look at our Housing Opportunity Agenda and Endorsements. What are your personal or organizational priorities? What do you want the Legislature to do before they adjourn?
  2. Identify your Legislator. You have one Senator and one Representative. Having trouble? Check out this tutorial.
  3. Email, call or write your Legislators about your priorities.
    1. Start by sharing who you are – are you a constituent? Someone who works in their district? If you work for an organization, what is your mission? Who do you serve?
    2. Share why this matters to you. Share that you believe everyone needs a safe, stable, affordable place to call home.
    3. Share one (only one!) statistic or fact about housing needs in your community. If you need help, check out our one page representation of housing needs in our communities. (Now updated!)
    4. Share why the bill or program you’re advocating for matters to you. Why do you think it’ll make a difference in your community?
    5. Ask for their support. If it’s a bill, ask them to vote YES on the bill, and say why. If it’s a budget request, ask for their support for the dollar amount for the program, and why.
    6. Say thank you for their time.

What’s next?

There will be a lot happening behind the scenes in the next few weeks. Stay tuned to our blog, our Facebook page, and twitter to see what the latest is in the Legislature!