Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek has approved spending billions of dollars to help ease the deepening housing crisis in the state. She also promised on Thursday to provide more certainty for renters and cut red tape for developers.
“We know we have a crisis,” Kotek said before she signed a handful of measures into law. “The biggest indicator of that crisis — too many people living unsheltered — is something we need to make progress on.”
Since she was sworn in at the start of the year, Kotek promised the state would play an aggressive role in addressing the ongoing crisis. Some estimates have shown the state needs as many as 140,000 more housing units to meet demand.
“Whether you’re on the coast or the valley or out in the beautiful Wallowa mountains, every community is wrestling with how to provide more housing for their community,” the governor said.
The bills Kotek signed on Thursday are:
- Senate Bill 611, which will cap the amount landlords can increase rent for tenants. The measure limits annual rent increases to either 7% plus inflation or 10%, whichever is lower. In 2019, Oregon became the first in the nation with statewide rent control. At the time, landlords worried it would only be a matter of time before state lawmakers tried to lower the cap further. They were right. But what most people couldn’t have anticipated was the spike in inflation, which allowed some landlords to increase rents by 14%.
- House Bill 3395 aims to remove bureaucratic hurdles and streamline the approval process for affordable housing construction. It puts $48.5 million from the general fund toward this effort and aims to reduce restrictions on housing types, such as duplexes and condominiums. It also calls for issuing funds to help low-income college students access affordable housing options and money to provide housing for agricultural workers.
- House Bill 3042 would give Oregonians who rely on subsidized housing a safe-harbor period of three years as some federal protections start to expire. That extra time is designed to keep them in their existing homes and to preserve affordable housing.
- Senate Bill 5511 is the budget bill for the Housing and Community Services Department and it includes more than $2.5 billion and 441 new positions to the state agency. The money includes $55 million for rental assistance, $6 million for eviction prevention services and more than $7 million for down payment assistance.
Earlier this year, the governor signed a large housing package that supporters hope will shift the state’s approach to building homes and make a dent in the homeless crisis.
Despite the focus on housing and homelessness, Kotek noted there is still a lot to be done.
“What is good about today is we are making progress to be helpful and we, of course, always have more work to do,” she said.
The governor said she hopes the 2024 legislative session focuses on increasing the housing supply and expanding what land is deemed buildable in the state.