Affordable Housing in Oregon, Part Two: Where Do We Go From Here


By Rep. Mike Nearman

In a previous piece, I wrote on the causes of the affordable housing crisis in Oregon. Some of the causes can be directly addressed, such as when the Legislature has created a problem, as in the case of Oregon’s restrictive land use laws. In this case, the Legislature can and should create some land use relief. This is especially necessary to establish the credibility of the state on this issue. If affordable housing is truly a crisis, the state needs to take the lead in delivering solutions that have no fiscal impact.

In light of this, it’s appropriate that the State create some relief from land use laws in order to provide development space for affordable housing. There are a handful of bills, including HB 2937, HB 2938, and HB 2433 which allow for small dwellings on agricultural land, but this hardly provides a solution to the problem, especially in urban areas where it is needed most. Perhaps the most effective is HB 2456 which permits affordable housing with county approval on rural residential land. These are all good policies, but I’m thinking that the State should do something to make the expansion of Urban Growth Boundaries easier.

Some of the causes of the affordable housing crisis aren’t the fault of state and local governments, but state and local governments can provide solutions. Federal legislation responding to the banking crisis of 2008 tightened lending practices, and even though the state didn’t cause this, we can do things to free up money for projects.

And then there are things that the Legislature is trying to do that aren’t going to fix the problem, but might even make it worse. Things like allowing local communities to adopt rent control – they call it “rent stabilization”. This is great for the few who get rent controlled housing, but bad for the rest of the world. There are a couple of bills HB 2001 and HB 2003 do this. HB 2004 eliminates “no-cause” evictions and forces landlords to pay for the moving costs of their tenants.

We didn’t get here because there has been a sudden spike in landlord greed or meanness. Landlords are just as mean and greedy as they have ever been, and targeting them isn’t going to fix the problem. In many cases, it will cause landlords to behave in ways that are less tenant friendly. Moreover, for years, there has been a coalition which has worked out compromises on landlord-tenant law. Because of this type of legislation, that coalition has disappeared.

I’ll predict today that 5 years from now, we’ll be worse off.

State Representative Mike Nearman (R-Independence) is a member of the House Committee on Human Services and Housing and is looking for solutions.

  • Kenneth Allen Donaldson

    Mike, You don’t know me or many other rental housing providers, because if you did you wouldn’t make an ignorant, bigoted comment like this; “Landlords are just as mean and greedy as they have ever been”

    • Myke

      And that could mean ‘not mean and greedy at all.’ If the shoe fits…

      • Kenneth Allen Donaldson

        Reading comprehension problem?

  • Rosia Gregg-Lambeth

    Our state is NOT just democ rats, we on the east side/ Grand County and other counties, are REPUBLICAN, we do not want thousands of illegals and ‘refugees’ in our state, my state taxes go for AMERICANS who live in Oregon.. Not for anyone the governor wants to spend the taxes on. Our federal taxes come from the payers from our USA. STOP spending our money on illegals and refugees, this is our state, not the governor and her group.

  • Bruce Moffatt

    Interesting article and posts. Thank you Mike for attempting to search for solutions. Is the thought behind increasing land for development that over time the housing currently constructed will become more affordable, as current home owners and renters move into the new housing? Then the market has more supply, theoretically reducing prices and rents?
    I have concerns about loss of farmland with quality soil and increasing creep/sprawl into rural areas.
    It is difficult to think about increased UGB’s when the new builds are often large lot, high cost properties. As a town spreads out the infrastructure costs increase and even with the increasing tax base are rarely affordable. Most towns and cities do not have a tax base that can keep their current infrastructure up to date and in good repair.
    I am interested in finding solutions, it is a complex problem. I am not sure that a lack of build-able land is the golden bullet for this one.