Housing Innovation Partnership (HIP) co-convener and Senior Program Officer for Economic Vitality and Housing at the Oregon Community Foundation, Megan Loeb, shares article ‘For a thriving economy, Oregon needs more housing for middle-income earners’ in the Portland Business Journal.
The article outlines the need for housing that serves Oregonians earning between 60 and 120 percent of area median income (AMI), also referred to as the missing middle or workforce housing range. While the article highlights challenges faced in Corvallis, the need for middle-income housing is dire in both urban and rural parts of our state, and the challenges are felt uniquely in each community.
With an estimated lack of 140,000 housing units statewide, Oregon is facing a housing deficit. The Governor has set the goal for our state to produce 32,000 new units of housing a year. With current production around 20,000 units a year, that is an increase of 60% annually. In order to meet our state’s needs and ensure that communities can house essential populations of middle-income earners, innovations in financing, construction, and regulation are necessary.
Regarding financing innovations: HB 2980 which aims to create a revolving loan fund to incentivize the development of housing serving the missing middle – units that do not currently pencil out for developers; and HB 2981 which proposes the creation of an Infrastructure Grant and Loan Fund, Oregon Land Fund, and a Construction Loan Guarantee Fund to spur housing development. These new financing models will serve a segment of the market not currently supported through any public incentives, Oregonians with incomes that do not allow them to access pubic assistance but who need housing the market is not able to provide to them at affordable prices.
Innovative construction methods, such as modular housing units and components produced off-site or pre-fabricated can be used to enhance the speed of development and availability of new homes. Oregon is home to many companies with expertise in these areas, but under current market constraints, it is often not feasible for them to produce residential units at scale. Set aside in the Governor’s Emergency Homelessness Response Package signed into law last month was a fund ideated by HIP members, $20 million to provide grants or loans to entities to begin or expand production capacity for the development of modular housing and components. This is hopefully just one of many steps to be taken in the direction of employing unique construction methods to increase housing production in our state. More information on the RFP process for these funds to come soon.
The Partnership is also exploring ways Oregon can better address regulatory barriers, acknowledging that we need more housing quickly, but the current process is not designed for speed and can inhibit production. HB 3174 supports the expansion of local government technical, educational, and staff capacity in order to accelerate the permitting and streamlining of local processes. Increasing the capacity and ability of local governments to carry out community development and housing construction activities is essential to increasing Oregon’s overall production of needed housing.