We were honored to have Senator Merkley speak to us at Building Oregon’s Future: 2013 Asset Builders Conference on Wednesday, April 24th. Sen. Merkley continues to be a champion of policies that strengthen pathways to the middle class for all our neighbors. He spoke about his own part in Oregon’s asset building history, beginning with his role in the creation of the Oregon Individual Development Account (IDA) Initiative in 1999.
What’s new at Neighborhood Partnerships? Check out our blog, and hear about what we’re working on and thinking about.
Neighborhood Partnerships has just completed phase one of our Oregon Narrative project. We partnered with Metro and more than 2,000 members of the Opt In panel took time to share their thoughts. We wanted to know whether reminding folks of the vision many of us share is helpful as we launch conversations about what it will take to make that vision reality. The short answer? Yes! Our vision statement made people (8 out of 10) curious and ready to hear more about solutions.
We’ve been working for a while to try to re-train ourselves to communicate in ways that open up dialogue and conversation. So much of today’s political discourse is negative, focused on short term solutions, and wrapped up in telling a story that involves stark contrasts, heroes, and villains.
We would rather remind others and ourselves of the power we have when we try to be our best selves, together. We’re thrilled that our narrative seems to help us do that – create a receptive audience, so we can at least begin the conversations we need to have about our future as a state and a nation.
Perhaps because we have been working on our narrative, we’ve been sensitive to the use of narrative and Oregon stories by others. Two stand out to us: One by House Speaker Tina Kotek on the opening day of the Legislature, and one by Senator Chuck Thomsen about the “tuition equity” bill. Both tell a personal story, and remind us of our collective vision as Oregonians and as Americans. You can read Speaker Kotek’s speech here: Text of Speaker of the House Tina Kotek’s Speech to Joint Session and Senator Thomsen’s op-ed here: Why I support Tuition Equity for Oregon Students.
Next steps for our narrative project? We’ll be testing it a bit more, and then sharing what we learn with partners. Come to the Housing Alliance Lobby Day April 4th, or the Asset Builder’s Conference April 24th and 25th, and you’ll get the latest scoop on what we’ve learned.
In the meantime, here’s the latest version of our Oregon narrative.
“Oregon has a history of ingenuity, innovation and independence. Our state’s natural beauty, open spaces, and resources – from the rugged coastline to Steens Mountain, from lush farmland to high desert, from the mighty Columbia to the wild Rogue – have nurtured and inspired us for generations.
“We have worked hard to come together, and to build communities and the public systems – roads, schools, cities and towns – that sustain us. Today, we face a defining moment. We have new challenges and opportunities ahead of us. Our systems need an upgrade, and we see that past choices have opened the door to opportunity for some but not for all.
“We have the tools to create a better future, and to open doors for all Oregonians. We can harness our innovative spirit, our talent, and our energy. We can invest in people and create a better future for the next generation. We can ensure that every person, every family, and every community in Oregon can prosper.”
Higher prices in the rental market continue to force Oregon families to choose between paying rent, putting food on the table, and paying utility bills. A national study reports that the cost of renting an apartment in Oregon has increased again, while unemployment remains high at 8.3%.
The slow economic recovery, high unemployment and continued wave of foreclosures in Oregon continues to make it more difficult for hard working Oregonians to find a safe, decent and affordable place to call home. In Oregon, we believe everyone needs a place to call home. As we work together to solve the current budget crisis, the Legislature needs to help make sure all Oregonians can meet their basic needs including a place to call home.
According to the report released today by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), the average rent and the income required to afford those rents continue to rise despite high unemployment and foreclosures. The study shows that the average two-bedroom rent in Oregon is $832, which would require a $16 hourly wage to afford. As rents continue to increase, more and more Oregon families find themselves experiencing homelessness for the first time.
This legislative session, the legislature will hear about several ways we can help prevent or end homelessness for Oregon families. The Emergency Housing Account (EHA) and the State Homeless Assistance Program (SHAP) provide short term help to stabilize individuals and families and prevent them from becoming homeless. EHA and SHAP also help people who are homeless or fleeing domestic violence to quickly enter safe, stable housing. However, EHA and SHAP have experienced severe cuts over the past few years, even as the need has skyrocketed.
Proposals this session will request an increase in General Fund dollars to restore the Emergency Housing Account (EHA) and State Homeless Assistance Program (SHAP) to their 2007 biennium levels, plus inflation. This requires adding back $3 Million to EHA and $1 Million to SHAP for a total of $7.5 Million (EHA) and $3.6 Million (SHAP).
Every year it is becoming more difficult for hard working Oregonians to find decent homes they can afford. This year, someone making minimum wage in Columbia County would have to work nearly twelve hours a day, seven days a week just to be able to afford a place to call home.
The report, Out of Reach 2013, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a Washington, DC-based housing advocacy group, and Oregon’s Housing Alliance. The report provides data for every state, metropolitan area and county in the country. The report also defines a “Housing Wage”, which for Oregon is $16.00, or nearly double Oregon’s minimum wage. The Housing Wage is the hourly wage a family must earn—working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year—to be able to afford rent and utilities in the private housing market. The average fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Oregon is $832 —a number that has increased 37% since 2000.
This year, Oregon is the twenty-fifth most expensive state in the nation for renters. The National Housing Wage is $18.79.
For additional information, visit nlihc.org/oor/2013.
Today, the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) released their annual Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, which grades each of the fifty states on how well they are doing to create opportunity for their residents. Oregon received a “B” for its work, and this Scorecard reminds us that there is clearly more we can do to help create pathways to opportunity for our residents.
Today, too many Oregonians are forced to make choices between paying rent and putting food on the table. Nearly one in four residents is considered asset poor, meaning they don’t have enough savings or assets to survive a loss of income for three months.
Oregon can do better. There are specific and effective strategies to create opportunity for all of our residents. We have the tools to create a better future, and to open doors for all Oregonians. We can harness our innovative spirit, our talent, and our energy. We can invest in people and create a better future for the next generation. We can ensure that every person, every family, every community in Oregon can prosper.
Two things the State Legislature can and should do in 2013 to create pathways to opportunity for all Oregonians are:
(1) To help low-wage workers afford food and other necessities, the Legislature should extend the Oregon state Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, which is set to expire at the end of 2013, and increase the value of the credit to 18% of the federal credit.
(2) To avoid discouraging saving for retirement, Oregon should allow modest retirement savings for applicants to the Oregon IDA Initiative.
Oregon also received a “D” as it relates to Homeownership. Homeownership is a key way families build assets and provide stability over time. We have a low rate of homeownership, as well as unaffordable homes and high housing cost burden for both renters and homeowners, meaning residents spend too much of their income towards housing.
We can do better though, and we can protect and promote opportunity through affordable housing and homeownership. To increase homeownership rates, lower the housing cost burden and prevent foreclosures, Oregon should continue to invest in its IDA programs and other proven strategies to support first-time homebuyers. The Legislature should also act to strengthen foreclosure protection and prevention laws ensuring pre-foreclosure mediation by a neutral third party.
Neighborhood Partnerships is excited about the year ahead and our expanding opportunities to build household financial resilience through the Oregon Individual Development Account (IDA) Initiative.
We wrapped up a successful year in 2012 by reaching our $10 million goal, thanks to the Oregon IDA 75% Tax Credit. We are grateful to the many individual and businesses across Oregon who contributed so generously and helped us hit this milestone.
These contributions will go to work across the state to create opportunities for at least ,1400 more Oregonians with low incomes who are eligible to enroll and start saving with an IDA. The Oregon IDA Initiative is a proven approach which provides access to financial education and matching funds to achieve dreams of owning a home, starting a micro-enterprise, or continuing education for the over 2,500 Oregonians currently enrolled. For more information on the Oregon IDA Initiative, including information on how to donate and how to apply for an Oregon IDA, visit our website.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for news of the 2013 Oregon Asset Builder’s Conference on April 23-25 in Salem. The 2013 Conference will bring us together to be energized, inspired, and even better equipped to move forward. We are currently working with our partners to plan, and we’re seeking ideas for break-out sessions. We’d love to hear your proposal! Ideas are due on February 8. You’ll see more information about the Conference and registration instructions soon.
In the 2013 Legislature, were also working together to make a small change in the statutes governing the Initiative that will allow us to better serve Oregon households with low incomes. Right now, State law exempts $20,000 plus a potential IDA participant’s first home and one vehicle from the net worth calculation when determining eligibility, but includes all retirement savings, even at very modest levels. These current limits on assets mean that many of our Initiative Partners have had to turn away otherwise eligible participants because of their modest retirement savings.
We are proposing that the first $60,000 of the applicant’s retirement savings also be exempted from the calculation of net worth. We’ll be working together to pass HB 2316. This proposed technical adjustment to the original legislation removes a barrier to building the very habits the Initiative is designed to foster. We need to empower Oregonians to build pathways to overall financial wellness throughout their lives – including successful, planned retirements. We need to reinforce the value of saving for the future. Please join with us in supporting this change.
For more information or with questions about our proposal, contact Janet.
2012 is drawing to a close, and 2013 is just around the corner. The new year is already unfolding a new set of challenges and opportunities. Neighborhood Partnerships needs your help today to make the most of these opportunities to improve the landscape for Oregonians with low incomes.
Our work is driven by a vision of an Oregon whose beauty and riches combine to offer opportunity and a bright future to all who live here. As we know, that isn’t the case in Oregon today.
Please, join us as we work in 2013 to make a difference in Oregon communities. Your donation of any amount — $25, $100, $250, or more — to Neighborhood Partnerships will help us move our work forward and will mean real, lasting results for Oregonians.
Our work – shepherding resources, policy development, advocacy, communication — has a lasting impact on Oregon.
o We work with partners to energize the Housing Alliance;
o We have continued to mobilize resources to build the financial resilience of Oregonians with low incomes through the Oregon Individual Development Account Initiative.
o Our expertise in strategic communications has deepened, and we help our partners hone their skills at cultivating messages.
Your contribution to Neighborhood Partnerships – in any amount — matters, and will make a difference. We cannot do this work without your help.
You may also want to consider a contribution directly to the Oregon IDA Initiative, which qualifies for a 75% Oregon State tax credit. You can learn more about the Oregon IDA Initiative at www.oregonidainitiative.org.
On January 30, 2013, the national organization CFED will be releasing their annual Assets & Opportunities Scorecard. The scorecard grades states across the U.S. on how well they help their residents build financial resiliency and offers recommendations for improvement. Neighborhood Partnerships is pleased to be a Lead State Organization for the Assets & Opportunity Network, and will be helping to share the data here in Oregon.
The Scorecard will not only give Oregon a grade about how we’re doing to help our residents access and build financial resiliency, it will also paint a picture of how Oregonians are doing financially. It will measure job quality and incomes, access to education and homeownership, and will measure both income poverty (how much people earn) and asset poverty (how much people are able to save).
One of the most effective ways to help people move out of poverty is the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC. The EITC is for working families, and helps them make ends meet by providing a refund at tax time. Many families use the refund to pay rent, repair a car, pay down debt, or start saving. In Oregon, we have a state EITC that’s due to sunset in 2013, unless the Legislature chooses to renew it. Neighborhood Partnerships and the Housing Alliance are supporting efforts to extend this tax credit and help make sure working families across Oregon have a pathway out of poverty for themselves and their children.
Neighborhood Partnerships has also been working with advocates across the state to discuss how we can better build household financial resilience in Oregon. We met in late October, and are planning to meet again in February, after the release of the CFED Scorecard. If you’re interested in joining us to discuss rebuilding pathways to the middle class for all Oregonians, please email Alison.
Today, the Oregon IDA Initiative is excited to release the 2011 Year End Evaluation. The report again indicates positive, long term changes to financial habits of IDA Participants, plus demonstrates the benefits of assets such as a home, an education, or a small business. Oregon is home to one of the largest IDA Initiatives in the county. Funded by a state tax credit, the program is currently serving over 2800 Oregonians as they learn financial skills and save for the purchase of an asset such as a home, a micro-enterprise, or an education.
Conducted by the Portland State University’s Regional Research Institute, the evaluation report includes data on IDA accounts opened between January 2008 and December 2011, including data on over 1,100 graduates. The report again indicates positive, long term changes to financial habits of IDA Participants, plus demonstrates the benefits of assets such as a home, an education, or a small business.
- Participants reported major changes in financial behaviors and confidence as a result of the education and encouragement they received. Most notably, there were large increases in the percentage that used a budget to monitor spending, regularly made deposits to a savings account, and had an emergency fund.
- Many participants reported maintaining important financial practices even 12 months after they completed their IDA experience. For example: 55% were still using a budget in contrast to only 30% who said they used a budget prior to opening their IDA account, and 52% still had an emergency fund to tide them over during difficult times.
- Beyond the immediate results of newly acquired assets for individual participants, the goals of the Oregon IDA Initiative are to build financial resilience that impacts family and community over the long term. Many participants indicated longer term benefits of their participation in the Oregon IDA Initiative, and some noted how their participation has had ripple effects – benefiting their children, other family members, their friends, co-workers, and community.
- IDA participants who were not able to complete their savings goals often cited aspects of the program they found helpful, such as learning to budget.
The Oregon IDA Initiative is a proven approach which provides access to financial education and matching funds to help Oregonians achieve their dream of owning a home, starting a small business, or continuing their education. This successful collaborative effort provides the skills and funds to help rebuild Oregon’s middle class, and, in the process, rebuild Oregon. Building financial stability and resilience is a first step.
Are you interested in working with others to figure out how we can:
- Re-build the financial strength of Oregon’s communities from the ground up,
- Increase access to the tools and strategies that will work to help Oregonians build pathways to the middle class, and
- Use tested public policy tools to help us move forward?
Please join us for a roundtable discussion on Monday October 29th, 1:00 p.m. in Salem. We’ll be looking at materials developed at the national level to inform state and local policy discussions, and we will be hearing updates from folks in Oregon who are doing this important work.
Monday, October 29
1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
1255 Broadway Street NE Suite 110
Salem, OR 97301
We know there will be exciting work going forward in Oregon in the next legislative session, around the Earned Income Tax Credit, foreclosure counseling, and other issues. Join us to learn what others are doing and share your work.
Questions? Call Janet Byrd at 503-226-3001 ext. 103 or Alison McIntosh at 503-226-3001 ext. 107.
Neighborhood Partnerships is pleased to announce that applications are now available for the third round of our Advocates College, thanks to the commitment of our lead trainer, Patrick Bresette of Public Works, and the generosity of our funders. Both the first and second Advocate’s Colleges were huge successes, and have had immediate benefits for participants. We’ve written about the first round of the Advocate’s College on our blog here, here, and here–read all about it! Round Three of the Advocate’s College will:
- First and foremost, our goal is to support established leaders and communications professionals who are working to create an Oregon which offers its diversity of residents opportunities to thrive, pathways out of poverty and disenfranchisement and adequately supported public systems and structures as shared tools for these goals.
- Second, we want to train and support an emerging cadre of leaders and communicators as they work on issues and in cross-issue coalitions to develop messages and materials that resonate and move an advocacy agenda. We will select participants who have a clear issue focus and advocacy or campaign plan, a commitment to strategic communications, and a recognition that building public support for governmental action and resources is an underlying priority. This session of the advocates’ college will prioritize individuals who are doing grass roots organizing or voter engagement.
- And third, we intend to improve communications across issue silos. We want to build our ability to advance a broadly shared view of what it takes to build a state and communities where opportunity is real, asset building is a priority and citizens are engaged in creating the future. We hope to support one another’s efforts to address critical needs, and together address the underlying resource and public will challenges that hamper all of our success.
Sessions will be held in Portland. Dates and times are:
- Thursday, October 4, 2012 from 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
- Wednesday, October 31, 2012 from 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
- Tuesday, December 4, 2012 from 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
- Wednesday, December 5, 2012 9:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. OR Thursday, December 6, 2012, 9:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
- Wednesday, January 9, 2013 from 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Patrick Bresette of Public Works will be our lead trainer, assisted by Janet Byrd and Alison McIntosh of Neighborhood Partnerships.
Download the full description of the Advocate’s College here. The application is now available, and is due at Neighborhood Partnerships by September 10, 2012. Our application and pre training questionnaire are designed to help us select the cohort most able to put these skills into use, and to tailor our sessions to support their progress.