Opinion in Oregonian about Housing and Homelessness Issues

The following article appeared in Saturday’s Oregonian. NP’s Janet Byrd and Israel Bayer of Street Roots and Bill Hall, a Lincoln County Commissioner co-authored this op-ed about the importance of addressing housing issues during the current legislative session. You can view it online here.

Legislative session: Housing, homelessness issues should be on agenda

Published: Saturday, February 11, 2012, 4:00 AM

By Israel Bayer, Janet Byrd and Bill Hall

The Oregon Legislature got some good news for our communities this week. Lawmakers heard from forecasters that the economy is beginning to stabilize and show some signs of recovery, and that state revenues have leveled off after many quarters of continued downturn and loss.

Now is not the time for us to relax, and neither can our lawmakers. The list of bad news continues to be long: Our neighbors, friends, schoolchildren and grandparents still need our help. The ripple effects of the economic devastation have touched all of us personally and all of the systems we have created as a community. Our schools, our nonprofit service providers, our churches and faith institutions are struggling to meet the needs they see. Homelessness is at a peak, rental housing is in short supply, rents are too high for average workers to afford, and foreclosures are ravaging communities from the coast to the eastern border.

The overwhelming tide of foreclosures and financial uncertainty threatens to permanently undermine the foundations of our state. We need our legislators to make decisions that put more Oregonians on a pathway toward prosperity. We need our lawmakers to look long-term and take action to rebuild Oregon now, before they leave Salem at the end of February.The good news is that the Legislature can act to rebuild our foundations and put us back on solid footing. The decisions we make now will shape our state for years to come. We can and must create an Oregon that offers opportunity for all its residents.

The Housing Alliance, a statewide coalition of housing providers, advocates, local jurisdictions and others concerned with the availability of affordable housing, is asking the Legislature to act on the 2012 Housing Opportunity Agenda. The agenda identifies a range of solutions with modest price tags and far-reaching impact.

Two items on the agenda can’t be left undone.

First, the Legislature should reverse cuts to programs that are the first line of defense against hunger and homelessness. Because of the way that state budgets work, programs that provide access to emergency food and emergency housing and that help to prevent the dislocation of more households are being cut at the time when the need for them is the greatest. Just a few million dollars here would help protect households in every corner of the state. As we make choices to help our state move along the path to an economic recovery, we can’t leave Oregonians most affected by the recession behind.

Second, the Legislature has the ability to act to protect homeowners affected by foreclosure. Our communities cannot wait until 2013 for decisive action while foreclosures wreak havoc and despair among families and communities across the state. Two bills moving in the Oregon Senate, SB1552 and SB1564, would provide homeowners with timely and accurate information about their choices and allow them to make informed decisions. And resources that Oregon will receive from the recent settlement with national lenders can be put to work to maximize the impact of the private and federal programs and resources that have been directed toward homeowner relief. The foreclosure crisis will continue to drag down our communities and our economy until action is taken by the Legislature to provide homeowners access to good information and guarantees of fair dealing.

While the path ahead is difficult, we know that there are solutions. We can make the right choices to best protect and ensure the future we all want: a future in which all Oregonians have access to opportunity and pathways out of poverty. February is the time to make these choices.

Israel Bayer is the executive director of Street Roots. Janet Byrd is the executive director of Neighborhood Partnerships and convenes the Housing Alliance. Bill Hall is a Lincoln County commissioner.


Want to know more?

How can you help? Call your Senator or Representative and ask them to vote yes on the two bills moving in the Senate, SB 1552 and SB 1564. Those who say we’ve done enough on foreclosure are wrong – Oregonians are still suffering and these bills would make a significant different in people’s lives. These bills would provide homeowners with timely and accurate information about their choices and ensure a fair and reliable process prior to foreclosure. Please tell your Senator that our communities cannot wait until 2013 for decisive action, and to please vote yes on SB 1552 and SB 1564. The foreclosure crisis will continue to drag down our families and our economy until action is taken by the Legislature to provide homeowners access to good information and guarantees of fair dealing.

Posted in Advocacy, News.