Bipartisan package passes Oregon house to address housing and houseless crises

Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 6:03 PM PDT
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SALEM Ore. (KPTV) - The theme was bipartisanship in Salem Wednesday morning at the state capitol.

The Oregon House of Representatives passed a $200 million bipartisan package aimed to tackle the growing houseless and housing crises. The package is made up of two bills, House Bill 2001 and 5019. Both bills received no more than 10 ‘no’ votes from Republican house members. This multi-million dollar investment also fulfills Gov. Tina Kotek’s $130 million ask for her houseless crisis state of emergency declaration. Republican Representative Jeff Helfrich is the Vice-chair of the House Housing and Homelessness committee. He helped write House Bill 2001 aimed at addressing the housing crisis.

“2001 started out as the Oregon Housing Needs and Analysis but the governor signed her executive order to get homelessness taken care of and kick start some housing production,” Helfrich said.

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He said House Bill 5019 is the portion aimed at addressing the houseless crisis. He admits the $200 million price tag is large. It is also well above what the governor wanted. But Helfrich said the extra $70 million is being used to fill in the gaps of Kotek’s state of emergency declaration. For example, the declaration was only for metro areas counties like Eugene-Springfield, Salem-Keizer and Portland. But nearly $27 million will now go to rural counties to help address their houseless crisis.

The $200 million dollars is broken even more: $55.4 million for landlord incentives and mass leasing programs, $33.6 million for rent assistance, $25 million for homeless youth, $23.8 million for more shelter beds, $20 million to produce modular affordable housing, $5 million for native tribes, $5 million for cultural organizations, $5 million to house farmworkers, $3 million for a loan fund, and $2 million to pick up the garbage and other sanitary needs. Helfrich said more needs to be done, but both sides of the aisle agree this is a start.

“It’s pretty easy to talk about partisan politics all the time,” Helfrich said. “But now we got a common goal to keep people housed.”

FOX 12 did reach out to the House Democratic Caucus for an interview but a spokesperson said their members were unable today. The caucus sent a statement and in it, the Chair of the House Housing and Homelessness committee said:

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“Every Oregonian deserves to have access to safe and affordable housing in the community of their choice. We have answered this moment of intense need with a swift and collaborative response. I am proud to put forth this package that will deliver relief to every corner of the state.”

The next stop for this bill is the Senate. Republican senator, Dick Anderson, co-sponsored House Bill 2001. He supports the passage of the package but said he wanted more focus on increasing the state’s housing supply. Even so, Anderson said the bill will likely pass through the Senate and the public will see the governor sign the package by her end-of-March deadline.

“I think the takeaway is that the state government certainly heard them,” Anderson said.