Editor’s Note: OPB is reaching out to the three leading candidates to become Oregon’s next governor to see where they fall on the issues. Here are Republican Christine Drazan’s responses to our written questions about how to address the state’s housing crisis:
What is your plan to increase housing affordability?
If we are serious about improving housing affordability, we must protect existing programs – like the mortgage interest deduction and first-time home buyer program – while holding down property taxes that already make up a significant portion of Oregonians’ monthly mortgage bills. We must also recognize that the regulatory environment on buildings directly impacts costs, and we need to stop mandating homes that, by their own nature, will be expensive due to the regulations in place on them. If we want affordable housing, we can’t continue with business as usual when it comes to increased restrictions and regulations that drive up costs.
Should the state’s land-use laws be changed? If so, how? If not, why?
Oregon’s land use system truly is one of a kind. On the one hand, it has helped maintain so much of what we love about our state – suburban communities that transition beautifully into farmland, a lack of the kind of urban sprawl we see other states across the U.S., and neighborhoods that have maintained their character through generations. On the other hand, it is extraordinarily complex, often moves at a glacial pace, and can be very expensive to navigate. These issues have come into particular focus as the number of available housing units continues to lag behind what is needed. The Land Conservation and Development Commission must be nimble, more accessible for everyday Oregonians, and should not hold future development hostage in bureaucratic purgatory. Our state can have both well planned communities and communities that are growing at the pace needed to support a full range of housing options.
Should there be a quicker, less burdensome way to expand the urban growth boundaries? If not, why? If yes, how would you accomplish that?
Our state’s land use system is turning 50 years old, and it is starting to show its age. As the needs in local communities have changed – particularly as it relates to housing supply – our laws and regulations must be updated accordingly. With regards to the urban growth model, we need a government that is responsive and helpful to the people of this state, not bogged down by bureaucracy and political agenda. The UGB plays an important role in protecting farmland – and it’s vital that we continue to affirm this protection – but we must also look for opportunities to accelerate development where appropriate. I’m committed to bringing people together and ensuring the voices of all impacted stakeholders are involved in as we consider adjustments to our land use system and urban growth boundaries.
What needs to be done to address racial disparities that exist in Oregon housing today due to public policies that were discriminatory in the past?
Race should play no role in whether an individual has an opportunity to access housing. Period. My administration will have a zero-tolerance policy for racism of any kind and will look to make housing more affordable and accessible for all Oregonians. We can do that by continuing to support key affordability measures like the mortgage interest deduction and first-time home buyer program – both of which are essential to helping families purchase a home - while continuing to confront Oregon’s painful history of racial injustice in housing at every opportunity.
Should Oregon be subsidizing more housing? If so, where and what type of housing? And where would the money come from?
Oregon is spending more on housing than ever before, with the state’s investment in housing tripling since 2017. The results have been underwhelming. I’m not supportive of a government takeover of private housing. I believe in incentives to accomplish public policy goals and I am supportive of private entities providing resources to accomplish housing goals. I have supported some investments in housing, including $500,000 allocated by the State Homelessness Response Coordination Infrastructure, much of which was aimed around bolstering the Built for Zero homelessness model, which I support.
What are your thoughts on Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order to consider how to reduce climate pollution when creating new housing?
Governor Brown’s casual use of executive orders and mandates to enforce her political agenda is one of the biggest reasons Oregonians have lost trust her in administration. Her executive order on climate is going to continue to drive up costs across our entire economy – including as it relates to housing. It makes little sense to me, given the affordability crisis we are current experiencing, to stack additional costs onto the housing market, particularly in the name of a program that will lead to little to no tangible environmental benefits.
Do you think the “middle housing” bill to allow for the creation of duplexes and triplexes on any lot of a city with a population of more than 10,000 will work as planned? Does it need to be tweaked at all?
The population thresholds established as part of this legislation were too low and should be updated. Instead of targeting the provisions of this law to the Portland metro area, where local leaders have expressed an interest in pursuing more housing density, the final bill roped in a number of rural communities where the needs and nuances of the local market are often far different. We need to shift away from a mindset that it is the government’s role to micromanage and intervene so extensively in the housing market. Specifically, as it relates to this policy, we must also recognize that increased density does not always equate to more affordable units. For example, tearing out a manufactured housing park to build high-rise condos could easily lead to the displacement of lower-income families as wealthier individuals move in.
Who would you appoint to lead the head of the Department of Land Conservation and Development?
My administration will look to appoint individuals who have subject matter expertise and who share my vision for how state agencies should be run. We will look to hire the best and brightest committed to my vision for Oregon. That means re-establishing a culture of customer service, of eliminating red tape – not creating it - and operating with the transparency and accountability that should be expected of state agencies.
Have you ever been a landlord? If so, could you share details of what type of property you owned or own?
What housing policy have you either sponsored or voted on has been the most meaningful and why?
I’ve supported an approach that abandons the “one-size-fits-all” standard of governing that we’ve seen for too long in housing and other issues around this state. Rural areas like Ontario in the eastern part of our state are struggling to build out their housing markets because they have to work under the same rules and handicaps that Portland has. This makes it hard to construct effective, new housing, especially considering the competition just across the river in Idaho. We need more local control, less regulation, and greater flexibility to allow different communities to succeed with the approaches that work best for them.