Oregon lawmakers pass $200M housing, homelessness package
The Oregon homeless population has increased by 22% since 2020
Oregon lawmakers passed a $200 million homelessness package on Tuesday.
About $157 million is aimed at boosting homelessness and eviction prevention services. That funding will go toward increasing shelter capacity, tackling youth homelessness and rapid rehousing efforts and rental assistance programs.
"This bill will help us build more housing, get people off our streets and make our communities more safe," Democratic state Sen. Aaron Woods said.
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The Senate approved the package on Tuesday night, with half of the chamber's Republicans voting in favor.
It passed the House with bipartisan support last week and will now head to Gov. Tina Kotek to sign.
"I have rural communities in my district as well that need this housing opportunity for our homeless. Homeless don’t just reside in urban communities," said Republican state Sen. David Brock Smith. "I’m going to be a yes vote so that I can be a part of the solution."
Nearly $27 million will specifically target rural areas to combat homelessness.
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Furthermore, $20 million will be used to increase factory-produced modular housing. The governor has a housing constriction target of 36,000 units per year.
Republican state Sen. Daniel Bonham, who voted against the package, said cutting bureaucratic red tape and creating more incentives for housing developers would better address the issue. Some members of the public also submitted written testimony that opposed the high spending.
Homelessness impacts hundreds of thousands of Americans, with the Department of Housing and Urban Development finding that 582,462 people were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2022.
The Biden administration says it aims to reduce rising homelessness – and reverse the trend – by 25% by 2025.
In the West, Oregon has struggled with surging trends driven by high prices and a lack of affordable housing options.
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Approximately 4,000 of the nearly 18,000 homeless people in the state live in rural areas.
Researchers and agencies estimate that Oregon is short 140,000 housing units, and federal data shows its homeless population has increased by 22% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.