A Place to Call Home Remains Unaffordable for Many Oregonians

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.