Gov. Tina Kotek signed a $200 million homelessness package on Wednesday that aims to tackle a crisis that affects thousands of Oregonians. (Courtesy of Gov. Tina Kotek’s office)
In a room full of advocates, legislators and housing agency staff, Gov. Tina Kotek signed two legislative bills into law on Wednesday to address Oregon’s homelessness crisis.
She called the bills a beginning toward getting thousands of Oregonians housed.
“The resources in this package will help prevent homelessness for more Oregonians, supply more transitional shelter capacity, rehouse individuals experiencing homelessness, innovate in housing construction so we can support more production, and better serve specific populations with their shelter needs,” Kotek said.
House Bill 2001 and House Bill 5019 passed both chambers of the Legislature with full Democratic and some Republican support. They make up a $200 million package, including more than $112 million to expand the state’s shelter capacity by 700 beds and help about 1,650 homeless Oregonians move into permanent homes within the next year. The package also includes $25 million for homeless youth and more than $33 million for rent assistance to help nearly 9,000 families stay in their homes.
Within 24 hours of taking office, Kotek declared a homeless state of emergency and created a state council to spur the building of thousands of extra homes a year. She asked the Legislature to take quick action rather than wait until the end of the session to approve funding for homelessness.
Kotek acknowledged that the package fulfills her request, thanking the Democratic leaders of the Legislature, Senate President Rob Wagner of Lake Oswego House who wasn’t there and Speaker Rep. Dan Rayfield of Corvallis, who attended the ceremony. She also noted the role of other lawmakers, including the Democratic chairs of the legislative housing committees, Rep. Maxine Dexter of Portland and Sen. Kayse Jama of Portland and two Republican vice chairs of the committees, Rep. Jeff Helfrich of The Dalles and Sen. Dick Anderson of Lincoln City.
“This response package includes the work of many other legislators who brought forward ideas, including efforts to make health and safety improvements to farmworker housing, encourage modular housing production, serve youth experiencing homelessness and more,” Kotek said. “This is the kind of bold leadership we need to fix this crisis, and communities across the state will benefit in the coming months because of your decisive action.”
Reporters were invited to the event, but Kotek did not take questions.
The crisis has touched every corner of the state, from the Portland area to the coast and from southern Oregon to eastern counties. At least 18,000 people in Oregon are homeless, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and many struggle with mental health problems and addiction. In 2021, the Legislature approved an historic $1.3 billion to address that crisis but the money has been slow to roll out, with Kotek calling for millions more for behavioral health this session.
Besides people on the streets, thousands more struggle to pay rent or keep up with mortgage payments. The state needs to build 550,000 new homes over the next two decades after years of building fewer homes than needed for the state’s growing population, according to the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development.
Kotek acknowledged that the package won’t solve the crisis.
“This crisis didn’t appear overnight, nor will it be solved overnight,” Kotek said.
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What’s in the package:
- $85.2 million to get homeless people housed and expand shelter capacity across Oregon.
- $33.6 million to help nearly 9,000 households stay in their homes.
- $27.4 million to address homelessness in about 25 rural counties among the 36 total that haven’t been included in Kotek’s January emergency order because homelessness has increased at slower rates there than in urban areas.
- $24.9 million for homeless youth, to help young people and their families with rent assistance, shelter and mental health or substance abuse treatment.
- $20 million to encourage production of modular homes, which are built in factories and then placed in foundations or stacked to make apartment buildings.
- $5 million for Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes to help tribal members experiencing homelessness.
- $5 million for farmers to improve health and safety conditions at farm worker camps.
- $3 million in revolving loans builders can use to pay for predevelopment costs, such as permits and local infrastructure fees, for homes that will be affordable to people earning between 80% and 120% of the median income in their area.
- $2.3 million for cities and counties to use for sanitation services.
- $1.6 million for the state Office of Emergency Management and Oregon Housing and Community Services to coordinate the state’s handling of the homelessness crisis.
- $200,000 to develop a long-term statewide rent assistance program.
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