U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, released a report Thursday suggesting solutions to long-standing federal housing issues.
“The United States has never recognized that housing, like food and health care, is a fundamental human right,” Blumenauer said at a press conference Thursday morning.
Blumenauer’s 26-page report, titled “Locked Out: Reversing Federal Housing Failures and Unlocking Opportunity,” lays out almost two dozen recommendations to improve access to affordable housing and decrease homelessness. It calls for the federal government to quadruple public housing capital funding, double federal homeless assistance funding and expand protections against unjust evictions.
“Some may look at these recommendations and say, ‘Well, they’re not in our capacity. They’re too ambitious.’ But the cost of inaction is far greater,” Blumenauer said. “From increased health care cost to environmental impacts to decreased quality of life.”
Local officials, including Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, spoke at Thursday’s press conference about how increased federal involvement in housing would help communities.
“I am hopeful that Washington might finally join us on the front lines of this lonely fight to end homelessness,” Kafoury said. “Because for far too long, leaders from both parties have been sitting this fight out, or worse — like our current administration — they’ve been actively and callously scheming to hurt people and make things worse.
“So as our nation’s housing crisis grows, it’s been up to local governments to lead,” she said.
The Urban League of Portland’s Nkenge Harmon Johnson spoke about the report’s acknowledgement of federal housing discrimination.
“Some may wonder why it’s important for our congressman to address affordable housing issues while there’s so much being done on the local and state level,” Harmon Johnson said. “The fact is that for decades, the federal government created policies that lead to the dearth of opportunity for black homeowners.”
Indigenous, Latino and Asian people were similarly kept away from opportunities to own homes because of explicit federal government policies, she said.
Similar policies also existed in Portland.
“We’re not talking about ancient history here,” Harmon Johnson said.
The report states that the federal government needs to make improvements based on “the past and its impact on the present.”
“Making up for decades of underinvestment and atoning for past wrongs is not going to be done easily and it won’t come cheap,” the report says.