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Oregon Legislative Session Ends with Huge Wins for Affordable Housing

Earlier this month, the Oregon legislative session wrapped up with historic wins for affordable housing and homelessness for the 2017-2019 biennium.

The legislature, with the Governor’s leadership, awarded approximately $135 million in new state resources for affordable rental housing development, affordable housing preservation, and resources to prevent and end homelessness.  In addition, the legislature also approved new statutory tools to help make an impact on the state’s housing crisis.

Below is a detailed outline of the exciting developments:

Affordable Housing Development

  • New Construction:  The legislature authorized $80 million in Article XI-Q General Obligation Bonds to develop affordable housing under the LIFT (Local Innovation and Fast Track) program.  The funds can be used for rental housing (at or below 60% AMI) or homeownership (at or below 80% AMI), and are targeted to underserved communities including rural areas.
  • Land Acquisition Program: The new Land Acquisition Program, modeled after the program in Washington State, which will allow Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) to make low interest loans to public housing authorities and nonprofit organizations to acquire land and hold it for up to eight years while they assemble other financing sources to develop rental or homeownership housing.  OHCS committed $3 million in agency resources to seed the program.
  • Oregon Affordable Housing Tax Credit (OAHTC): The legislature expanded the OAHTC, which provides a mechanism to reduce interest rates on conventional debt for affordable housing, allowing project sponsors to serve lower income households.

Affordable Housing Preservation

  • The legislature authorized HB 2002, which creates a Notice and Opportunity to Purchase program modeled after Massachusetts.  The bill requires notices in the event of a contract or use agreement expiration or sale of a project, and provides an opportunity to purchase by OHCS or a delegated entity.  The program is intended to cover federally assisted properties and public housing as well as properties with LIHTC and other rent restrictions.  It also mandates that OHCS establish a preservation database integrating federal, state and local data.
  • The legislature allocated $25 million in new bond funding for affordable housing preservation for federally assisted properties.

Homeless Services and Prevention

  • An allocation of $40 million in Emergency Housing Assistance (EHA) and State Homeless Assistance Program (SHAP) funding for the 2017-2019 biennium.  The baseline funding for these programs is $10 million per biennium, so this is an historic four-fold increase in funding for homeless outreach, rent assistance, shelter capacity, transitional housing and other services.
  • An additional $1.5 million is allocated for veteran homeless services funding which OHCS will align with the state Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • The legislature authorized a new Rental Assurance Fund for Tenants. This program works to incentivize landlords to rent to homeless and low income tenants by covering costs of damages.

This is truly a landmark step for Oregon, which has some of the nation’s fastest growing housing costs and where more than one quarter of the population spending more than 50% of their income for rent.