The Housing Innovation Partnership

Created to help alleviate Oregon’s current housing crisis, the Housing Innovation Partnership consists of innovative leaders from the private, public, and civic sectors who are dedicated to finding new ways to increase housing production.

Oregon is facing one of the worst housing crises in the country with an estimated deficit of 150,000 homes statewide. The lack of adequate and affordable housing in our state poses a major threat to our citizens, communities, and economy. Around 30,000 new housing units will need to be produced each year for the next ten years in order for us to catch up with demand, but current production falls well short of that goal. The Housing Innovation Partners are working to develop a wide range of approaches to accelerate actions in closing Oregon’s dramatic gap in housing.

The following four Workgroups have been charged to address issues and explore innovation in the areas of Modular Housing, Middle Housing Financing and Incentives, Housing Research, and Local Capacity Building. Goals are to accelerate the availability, construction, and siting of housing stock by increasing factory built housing and panels; providing training, resources, and regulatory streamlining for builders; providing financing tools; supporting research; building the capacity for local governments to process and make modifications to plans and ordinances that will result in housing production; and more. 

“Innovative solutions are increasingly hard to find in a single sector. We all do what we can, but there simply are systemic limitations that sometimes cannot be overcome by a single sector. Housing is one of those issues where we all have our respective roles, but our real power is in integrating our respective strengths.” – Co-Convener, Housing Innovation Partnership 

Megan Loeb

Senior Program Officer - Economic Vitality and Housing, Oregon Community Foundation

Modular Housing –  The Modular Housing Workgroup is focused on examining the regulatory, sales, distribution, workforce, and market acceptance issues affecting the modular and prefabricated panels industry. They are working to create a strategy for greater use of off-site construction methods. Off-site production can help reduce construction time by 20-30%, and volumetric and panelized housing can address a range of housing types and markets, from disaster relief to middle housing. Mass timber can also play a critical role in this type of housing as the material can be digitally fabricated, sequesters carbon, and can increase economic development in rural communities.

Middle Housing Financing and Incentives –  Middle housing is the level of housing needed for individuals with incomes that do not allow them to access public assistance, but who need housing that the market is not currently able to produce at affordable prices. It is generally for people earning between 80% and 120% of AMI. Whether it be modular or stick-built homes, there are no current incentives for this level of housing. The Middle Housing Workgroup was charged to develop financing models and incentives for this type of housing, considering incentives such as density bonuses, tax abatements, targeted technical assistance, and more.

Housing Research –  The Research Workgroup has been charged to collaborate with all entities that can contribute to ongoing research around housing. They are working to coordinate the public, private, and civic research capabilities in a way that creates information supporting innovation to reduce Oregon’s housing deficit.

Local Capacity Building –  Increasing the capacity and ability of local governments to carry out community development and housing construction activities is essential to increasing the state’s overall production of needed housing. Solving the current housing crisis will require, at a minimum, a strong collaboration between the State of Oregon and its local government partners. Most Local Comprehensive Plans were adopted over 45 years ago and need to be updated. To do this, cities and counties need staff that is not currently present. This Workgroup is charged with building the capacity for Local Governments to process and make modifications to plans and ordinances that will result in more housing production.

Mass Timber Housing

Off-site construction has played a role in the overall housing industry for decades, mostly in the form of manufactured housing, but the larger sector – inclusive of modular and panelized construction – is starting to show signs of growth as builders and developers seek faster and more climate-friendly ways to bring lower-cost rental and ownership products to the market. Mass timber plays a large role in this type of construction as it can take on many forms and can be deployed in various environments throughout our state. Together, off-site construction and mass timber present great opportunities for innovation and the streamlining of housing construction in Oregon.  

The Oregon Mass Timber Coalition (OMTC) was recently awarded a 41.4 million dollar grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to develop and expand Oregon’s emerging mass timber industry. This grant will support university research on mass timber, fund Willamette National Forest restoration projects, support efforts to modernize building codes enabling recovery efforts to use mass timber products in Oregon communities impacted by wildfires, jump-start public-private-civic partnerships to spur employment in the creation and use of mass timber in housing, and aide the Port of Portland in their development of T2, a Mass Timber Innovation Hub.

The Oregon iSector, in partnership with the Housing Innovation Partnership, the Port of Portland, ECONorthwest, and the Oregon Mass Timber Coalition, has been awarded a grant from Business Oregon to plan for the implementation of a Center of Innovation Excellence focused on Mass Timber Housing.

In the upcoming months these partners will work to create a business plan for a Mass Timber Housing Innovation Center of Excellence; exploring regional factory capacity and identifying best practices for mass timber modular housing; examining employment and business opportunities across the entire supply chain from fiber sourcing to on-site assembly; evaluating which rural communities could be candidates for mass timber and modular housing factories; researching how workforce and entrepreneurship opportunities can be targeted to under-served Oregonians, and much more as they uncover what the future holds for mass timber housing in Oregon.

Project Turnkey

In the face of Covid-19, wildfire disasters, and the crisis of homelessness, the need for readily available housing in Oregon became critical. Board members of the Oregon iSector responded to the need and initiated the Turnkey Project. These leaders from the League of Oregon Cities, Association of Oregon Counties, Oregon Community Foundation, and Hacienda CDC joined with Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association and others representing the public, private and civic sectors and formed the Turnkey Partnership to address the need.

The partners determined the best way to provide housing quickly was to acquire existing hotels and motels. Members of the State Legislature were approached and  $65 million in state money was allocated to purchase hotels and motels. The Oregon Community Foundation took the lead and serves as administrator for the program on behalf of the partnership.

In the first round of Project Turnkey, a total of seventeen motels were acquired in thirteen counties throughout the state, providing 798 units of housing. In the longer term, these facilities will be used as transitional or permanent housing units. The iSector is now working with those communities to develop local public-private-civic sector partnerships that will provide the wraparound services essential to meet the need for ongoing operations and support services for present and future residents.

“Oregon faces an unprecedented housing shortage. Project Turnkey is brilliant in its design of providing a roof over the heads of those without one for a fraction of the cost of building new – in some cases probably ten times less.”

George Murdock

Umatilla County Board of Commissioners, Chair

Other Partnerships in Oregon and Around the Country

Salmon SuperHwy Partnership

Tillamook County, Oregon – This partnership aims to reconnect and dramatically improve fish passage in 180 miles of streams in six watersheds on Oregon’s north coast over the next ten years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS), Trout Unlimited, Tillamook County Creamery Association and others are partners in the Salmon SuperHwy program.

The Partnership has secured a large grant and leveraged resources from the Tillamook Creamery who will provide $500,000 of in-kind support to the project to help with outreach and education, as well as cash support to help cover landowner costs. The USDA-NRCS grant of $1,237,428 will help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners in Tillamook County implement systems to conserve water and soil resources, improve the health of wildlife habitats, and increase climate resilience.

Workforce Housing

Carson City, California – A cross sector partnership is converting a downtown luxury apartment from market-rate housing to 150 units of workforce housing. The partnership includes The California Communities Development Authority, a developer, the city of Carson, and Standard Communities, a property management company.

The units will be priced to serve middle-income renters who “cannot afford the upscale housing units being built” in Carson City. The property management company has agreed to cap rent increases at 4 percent annually.


Youth Apprenticeships

Colorado – Gov. John Hickenlooper initiated CareerWise, a partnership between the State and Colorado businesses, the school system, and local governments. CareerWise is a program that offers opportunities for youth to apprentice with local businesses. It provides students with work experience and relevant credentials and certifications while earning their high school and associate degrees, enabling them to go directly into the workforce upon completing the program. By 2027 this partnership expects to provide 20,000 youth apprenticeships for about 10 percent of Colorado students in their last two years of high school.

Covid and Economic Recovery

California’s Imperial Valley – The Imperial Valley Business Recovery Task Force was created in late March and includes the local Chambers of Commerce, small business development centers, the Farm Bureau, the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation, the Imperial County Workforce and Development Department and representatives from the local cities. The Task Force is a resource for local businesses.

The Task Force and Imperial County are working together to create a general worksite protection plan (required for businesses that are reopening) and create and distribute standardized notification posters about safety precautions for businesses. Imperial County established a $500,000 low-interest, forgivable loan program for local for-profit and non-profit businesses. “We heard from our business community that many local businesses were not able to participate in the PPP program,” added Terrazas-Baxter. “We saw this as an opportunity to either supplant or supplement any other assistance they may be seeking at this time.”

Social Determinants of Health

Milwaukee, Wisconsin – Impact, the designated provider of 211 information and referral services has developed a cross sector partnership with local health systems, community organizations and NowPow, a technology company, to improve health equity and outcomes across Milwaukee. IMPACT Connect will establish a shared digital platform for partner organizations across multiple sectors — including healthcare, food, housing, child welfare, mental health, corrections, and others — to work together to better coordinate care and tackle social determinants of health.

Drawing on NowPow’s integrated platform and IMPACT’s comprehensive resource database, IMPACT Connect will enable participating health care and social service organizations to share, coordinate and track referrals in real-time. The NowPow platform will also help support “closed loop communication” between health care and human service providers to ensure people get connected with the resources they need, as well as track outcomes and impact. Over time, this data will identify gaps in services, inform community investments and drive IMPACT Connect’s growth.