Assets & Opportunity Scorecard Underscores Work Ahead for Oregon

The Corporation for Enterprise Development’s (CFED) Assets & Opportunity Scorecard was released on Monday. The news isn’t rosy for Oregon. However, we know that there are steps we can take and that working together we can remove the barriers to opportunity that persist.

Oregon Ranks 26th Overall in Financial Security of Residents

Here’s the analysis from CFED:

36 percent of Oregon’s households are locked into a “new normal” of perpetual financial insecurity, unable to build the savings needed to last even three months in the event of an emergency… The situation is most dire for households of color.

CFED goes on to cite homeownership rates which remain “at historic lows, falling to 63.1%.” Many Oregonians, especially those of color, struggle to afford basic health care, graduate from high school and college, save money and own thriving businesses.

This report is sobering. We have a lot of work to do to reverse the impact of past policy choices, a lack of follow through on policy beginnings, or adequate funding for strategies we’ve adopted. We have a roadmap and a foundation of strong policy. We just need to finish the job.

Savings, Assets and College

We have one solution to some of the issues the Scorecard raises. The Oregon Individual Development Account (IDA) Initiative helps people with low incomes buy homes, earn degrees and start small businesses. Perhaps most importantly, it also teaches people great savings habits. In a recent report on the Initiative, we found nearly 5,000 people opened IDAs between 2012 and 2015, reaching people of color in all age groups – especially people who identify as Hispanic or Latino. In 2015, the Oregon Legislature renewed the Tax Credit that funds the IDA for 6 more years, which should have a huge impact on thousands of people in communities across Oregon.

In addition to our work with IDAs, NP has begun – along with the other members of the Oregon Asset Building Coalition – a campaign to introduce a new vehicle that will help people save – Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs). CSAs are a promising strategy to get more kids to go to and complete college. In fact, kids from families with moderate to low incomes who have as little as $500 in an account in their name are three times more likely to attend college and four times more likely to graduate. CSAs become a powerful tool to build a stronger, more equitable Oregon with kids ready to take on 21st-century challenges.

An informational hearing about CSAs will be held in late February at the Oregon Capitol and will likely be a precursor to legislation in 2017.

Working on Oregon’s “D” Grade in Housing

The Scorecard shined a light on Oregon’s housing crisis. That’s why in the short, one-month long legislative session housing advocates are putting forth an ambitious plan.

The legislature can do three big things in February to help out Oregonians:

  1. Protect tenants from being evicted for no reason and give longer notice for rent increases. Low vacancy rates and high rents mean homelessness when people lose their housing.
  2. Invest money and strengthen tools to preserve the affordable homes we have, create more affordable housing, and prevent and end homelessness.
  3. End a statewide ban that prevents cities from using tools that would help them create balance in their communities  – also called “inclusionary zoning.”

Homeownership was a red flag on the Scorecard. Inclusionary zoning offers the hope that local governments could require developers to set aside a certain amount of new homes being built as affordable. This could  increase access to homeownership and prevent displacement of communities of color.

The 2016 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard will help guide efforts as we look ahead to the next long legislative session in 2017 and a concerted effort to increase access to homeownership and other asset building opportunities for Oregonians.