With a dire need for permanent housing across all geographic regions in the state, HB 4001, sponsored by House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) was introduced to provide immediate relief to Oregonians experiencing unsheltered homelessness. The bill passed the House committee on human services unanimously Wednesday.
Amended in committee, the bill would allocate $40 million dollars to create emergency shelters for homeless individuals and families through a “supersiting” process.
Currently, more than 64 percent of people experiencing homelessness in Oregon are unsheltered. Oregon’s unsheltered family homeless rate is the highest rate in the nation.
The “supersiting” process will allow municipalities to site land for emergency homeless shelters without jumping over cumbersome hurdles in the land use system. Kotek commented on the amendments, “we’re really trying to take an emergency mindset to the thousands and thousands of Oregonians who are experiencing unsheltered homelessness.” Stakeholders have been told provisions will come that would exclude “supersiting” in environmental hazard zones, such as flood zones, high slope areas, brownfields, and wildfire zones.
The bill directs $20 million Oregon Housing and Community Services for grants to build the structures. The department will award grants among different regions of the state through a competitive process that emphasizes collaborative proposals. Counties would be able to apply for grants on their own, with other governments in their region, or with a nonprofit.
To address existing needs the bill proposes an investment of $10 million to Eugene ($4 million), Salem ($4 million), and Bend ($2 million).
$10 million are dedicated to technical assistance and short-term rental assistance for individuals and families transitioning from homelessness to permanent housing.
With the release of the quarterly revenue forecast, Kotek, says she will be seeking an additional $20 million of funding, totaling $60 million investment in the program.
Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) took a position of support on the bill at its February AOC Day legislative committee meeting. AOC Legislative Affairs Manager, Andy Smith is engaging on AOC’s behalf as additional amendments are reviewed.
The bill now heads to the House committee on rules for further consideration.
Contributed by: Megan Chuinard | Public Affairs Associate