Housing advocates are rallying their base and urging lawmakers to increase revenue for affordable housing as the 2018 legislative session gets ready to start on Monday, February 5.
“All across Oregon, communities are experiencing a housing crisis,” said Alison McIntosh of the Neighborhood Partnerships. “We have a vacancy rate below one percent in Medford and Ashland, communities in Central Oregon continue to struggle with homelessness and a shortage of affordable housing. In the Gorge and at the coast, we hear stories about teachers sleeping in vans. Up and down the I-5 corridor, we hear stories of double-digit rent increases.”
The Oregon Housing Alliance (OHA) is backing House Bill 4007, which would increase revenue for housing programs through hikes to real estate recording fees.
Fees are charged every time a property transaction is recorded in the state of Oregon.
Right now, those fees go to three programs: emergency rent assistance, homeownership and education programs, and a fund for affordable housing projects. HB4007 would raise the fee from its current high of $20 to as much as $75 per transaction. The hike would generate $41 million more a year for housing programs that the current fee.
“We know how to solve these problems, and increasing the document recording fee will provide needed resources to provide more housing opportunity to Oregonians in every corner of our state,” McIntosh said.
While a $50 increase in fees might not seem like much, it’s important to note that counties can also place additional recording fees on top of state fees. For example, Multnomah County charges $45 for the first page of a mortgage document and then $5 for each additional page.
In addition to hikes to document recording fees, HB 4007 would give a financial leg up to first-time homebuyers. Under the bill, residents could place money for the purchase of their first home into an individual account sheltered from state income taxes. Residents could squirrel away up to $5,000 each year for an individual and $10,000 for a couple, for up to 10 years.
Call to Action
The OHA, a network of housing advocates, government agencies, nonprofits, and service providers, is asking its members to write to the House Committee on Human Services and Housing, including Chair Alissa Keny-Guyer, Vice-Chair Andy Olson, Vice-Chair Tawna Sanchez, and Members of the Committee.
“We are hoping members and Oregonians will call their legislators, and urge them to act to solve our housing crisis,” McIntosh said. “We are hoping people will share their stories...and ultimately ask (legislators) to provide safety, stability, and hope to more of our neighbors.”
Residents at "Priced Out" community screenings often ask director Cornelius Swart what they can do to fight the downsides of gentrification. “Vote, call, and write your legislators,” says Swart. “You have to engage with the democratic process all year long. You constantly need to keep your lawmakers informed about what you want and accountable for what they promise.”
In 2015, the City of Portland declared a housing state of emergency as communities around Oregon saw some the nation's highest rent spikes. Since then, advocates have scrambled for additional money for housing priorities.
Over a year ago, Portland voters passed a historic $258.4 million housing bond to help address the situation. That year the legislature also authorized a controversial program that allows cities to meet affordable housing needs by building outside their respective urban growth boundaries.
The urban growth boundary policy, which restricts cities from sprawling into high-value forest and farmlands, has long come under criticism from builders who maintain that the restrictions unnecessarily increase the cost of housing.