Over the course of the last year, our advocacy team has worked diligently with our partners to talk about a number of different issues that our state faces. The Oregon Housing Alliance convened its workgroup meetings to talk about how the Legislature can make robust investments and policy changes in furtherance of safe, stable, and affordable places to call home. The Oregon Economic Justice Roundtable, a coalition dedicated to promoting economic opportunity in Oregon, came together to discuss the beginnings of what a direct cash program would look like in our state. And the Stop the Debt Trap Alliance listened to community members and drafted policy solutions that would end predatory industrial practices that put profit over people.
In our work covering housing, economic, and consumer justice, there are various shared principles of promoting opportunity and protecting our communities. When individuals have access to opportunities that allow them to reach their full potential, everyone benefits. We have also seen in our state when opportunity has been withheld, creating negative impacts not only for individuals, families, and communities but also for generations to come.
Oregon faces a profound housing crisis. There is simply not enough safe, stable, and affordable housing for everyone in this state. Over the past few months, we have seen a frightening 207% increase in evictions between October 2022 and October 2021, with Black renters remaining 2.4 times more likely to have an eviction filed against them than white renters. Homeownership is also becoming further out of reach, with BIPOC households less likely to own their own home than their White counterparts.
This session, thanks to the work of the Oregon Housing Alliance’s one-hundred member organizations and the Legislature’s summer work through the Joint Advisory Task Force on Addressing Racial Disparities in Homeownership, the Oregon Housing Alliance is coming in strong this 2023 session to advocate for robust housing policy changes and investments, including:
- Strengthening protections for tenants facing eviction by granting more time for a tenant to assess their options and make informed decisions about their next steps to stay stably housed
- Addressing soaring costs of living by imposing reasonable restrictions on how you’re your rent can increase in a year.
- Making available more resources for youth experiencing homelessness
- Revisiting tax incentives to ensure that these incentives go to promote first-time homebuyers, not wealthy vacation homeowners.
Consumer justice is also a key area of focus for us this year. We all know someone – a family member, a client, a loved one – who is struggling to keep up with the costs of living here in Oregon. And things aren’t getting cheaper. The cost of your utilities? Up 16.4%. Cost of gas? 58.9%. Cost to buy a new car? 23.2%. Your rent? It can go up by 14.6% this year if your landlord decides. Cost of healthcare? 49% over the last six years. Prescription drugs? 92.8% for folks with commercial insurance, and 185% over the same period for Medicare patients.
And along the way, we may find ourselves at the bad end of a bargain. You might discover that you are paying more for an internet plan than your neighbor is. Your phone plan might be $100 more than someone with a similar plan. You also might find that you are paying egregious amounts of auto insurance, simply because your credit score is less than stellar.
For this reason, we are fighting to:
- Ensure that credit scores are eliminated from consideration in the determination of auto insurance rates
- Eliminate contingent contracting when you buy a car (i.e. a dealer can currently unilaterally change terms of a contract even after you sign your paperwork)
- Update Oregon’s debt collection laws to better protect consumers who have debt in collections
- Address the high costs of prescription drugs, and health care costs in Oregon
Wherever you are in Oregon, there is always room for improvement to make this state a more affordable, safe, and stable place to call home. We are always looking for advocates to tell their story, either through lived or professional experiences, to legislators in Salem. If you would like to get engaged in this work, please email Loren Naldoza at firstname.lastname@example.org.