A decent roof over your head is something everybody needs in the best of times. For low-income people in these worst of times, it can be a matter of simple survival.
That's why HB 2436 - the Housing Opportunity Bill - was a good thing, and why we're glad the Oregon Legislature has passed it.
HB 2436 raises the state fee for recording the first page of real estate title documents to $26 from $11. That $15 increase doesn't look like much, but it's expected to add up to more than $19 million over the next biennium.
The money will go to the Oregon Department of Housing and Community Services, which will use it to help provide affordable housing options. The bulk of the money will go toward building and repairing rental housing for low-income working families, seniors and people with disabilities. Another 14% will go for homeownership and foreclosure prevention counseling, and 10% for efforts to prevent and decrease homelessness by helping people meet their rent or mortgage payments.
Passage of the Housing Opportunity Bill means that for the first time the state will have a dedicated source of funding (outside of the General Fund) for such purposes. And the need is impossible to argue with. Said Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose), who carried the bill on the House floor: "Hardworking people should be able to afford housing and still have enough money for groceries and other basic necessities. During tough economic times, it's especially important to remember those who are struggling with basic housing needs."
But HB 2436 isn't just a liberal feel-good bill - it's a significant economic stimulus measure that will help Oregon get through the present crisis and maybe even end it a little sooner. Preventing foreclosures can reduce the neighborhood blight caused by unoccupied, uncared-for houses and slow the downward spiral of real estate prices. Helping families meet their rent or mortgage payments will mean they'll have more money to spend on other things. And building more rental units and rehabilitating existing housing will generate jobs.
The Housing Opportunity Bill was such a good idea that even the people who will have to pick up the tab - the Oregon Association of Realtors and the Oregon Home Builders Association - supported it. It passed by wide, bipartisan margins in both the House (44 to 15) and Senate (20 to 9).
All the legislators on both sides of the aisle who voted "aye" deserve and hereby receive a GLASS SLIPPER, including Democratic Rep. Judy Stiegler of Bend and Rep. Gene Whisnant of Sunriver, with a special deluxe Ferragamo model going to Whisnant for working hard behind the scenes to bring his fellow House Republicans on board.
On the Senate side, we're passing out BOOTS all around to the nine (all Republicans) who voted against it, with an extra-heavy-duty hobnailed version for Bend's own Chris Telfer, who claims the dubious distinction of casting the only "nay" vote from the Central Oregon legislative delegation.