A new year often is a time of optimism and renewal: it can be a chance to start fresh, and to imagine a better future. For many of us, as the COVID-19 pandemic enters another year with another brutal wave, and continued economic inequality and housing instability, it can be difficult to feel optimistic.
The last year brought with it a continuation of the same challenges that were so prevalent in 2020, not only in our ongoing public health crisis but also in the way our country falls dangerously behind in recognizing and addressing the racial disparities in economic opportunity, well-being, and justice.
The last year has also brought new challenges. We are now seeing the end of many protections for tenants and homeowners to have a safe, stable and affordable place to call home, as well as new variants of COVID-19, keeps us from ensuring that we all stay safe.
As we enter 2022, it is time that we finally look to tackle root systemic causes of inequality, racism, and instability that affect communities of color and our larger community. We must continue advocating for safe, stable and affordable homes for all our community members. We must continue to fight for economic opportunity and fend off predatory practices from those who only wish to further extract wealth from our communities. We should fight for direct cash transfers to people to help them maintain or gain economic stability. What’s needed is for us to do things differently, boldly, in a way that centers people and centers race equity. And we must fund communities to implement their own solutions and strategies and trust those most directly impacted by these policies also have the solutions.
Even though it feels as if we are not collectively in the place that we would like to be, I continue to find optimism and hope in our strengths: At NP, we have a talented, dedicated, caring, equity focused team committed to racial equity. Guided by principles around equity, NP staff along with our partners accomplished an incredible amount of work and set a course for future work that will bring wealth and change to Oregonians across the state. In 2021:
- The Oregon IDA Initiative received an additional $7 million in funding from the Oregon Legislature to disburse to Oregonians across the state to save for homeownership, starting a new business, and saving for higher education, among other goals.
- Residents Organizing for Change (ROC) continued their work to work towards housing and economic justice in leading their largest policy agenda ever, and was successful in supporting the passage of monumental legislation, including HB 2006, which removes limits on putting shelters in communities across Oregon.
- The Oregon Housing Alliance successfully advocated for an unprecedented investment in housing, including development of new affordable housing, and preservation of existing affordable housing, as well as ongoing protections for renters and homeowners.
- NP helped co-create and now co-convenes the Oregon Economic Justice Roundtable, a shared table of advocates, nonprofits and funders which centers BIPOC leadership and community to advance an economically just Oregon. The OEJR now has the standing workgroups working toward long-term narrative change, a economic justice policy agenda and organizing for power building.
- NP staff continue to engage in our Strategic Planning Process, acknowledging and discovering obsolete and oppressive artifacts of the non-profit structure, and replacing it with principles of power sharing, equity, and inclusion that will appear in all of our work into the future.
As we look ahead towards a future in which all of us have access to stability, one opportunity will be how do we hold both moving toward a bold liberatory vision while also supporting and caring for our people, and each other. The past two years have taken a toll on all of us – so we continue to ask, how do we build the present in a sustainable caring way?
I invite you to continue to work and organize with us to advance housing and economic justice, to envision and actualize liberatory and racial justice in our work, understanding that ongoing public health crisis and racial inequities in our country continue to be harsh realities in our lives in this new year. And that we do that in a way that supports and nourishes our connection, relationship, and well-being.