Editor’s Note: OPB is reaching out to the three leading candidates to become Oregon’s next governor to see where they fall on the issues. Here are Democrat Tina Kotek’s responses to our written questions about how to address the state’s housing crisis:
Housing supply in Oregon has not kept pace with the population growth, and the state continues to fall behind every year. What is your plan to increase housing stock?
The housing supply crisis has been decades in the making and is being felt in every corner of our state. As House Speaker, I led the way to begin the arduous work of addressing our severe housing shortage, including investing over a billion dollars to build more affordable housing and maintain the current supply of affordable housing, removing barriers to housing development, allowing for more housing options, and more. But there is much more work to do. My priority on day one will be to start implementing my plan to tackle Oregon’s housing crisis.
We simply have to get more serious about building a lot more housing. The goal will be to build enough housing to meet the need for people currently experiencing homelessness, address the current shortage of housing, and keep pace with future housing demand over the next decade. I’ll start by issuing an executive order on Day One to create a long-term plan to build enough homes in urban, suburban, and rural communities to meet this goal. I will push forward a comprehensive legislative package, including strategies for:
● Encouraging innovation, streamlining permitting processes, and helping housing developers scale up to build more homes;
● Meeting local housing production targets in an equitable way;
● Expanding and supporting our construction workforce; and
● Funding affordable housing development at the scale needed to truly end this crisis and ensure that every person has a place to call home.
To be successful, all Oregonians will need to work together, in every part of the state, and there will need to be strong collaboration with the private sector. As Governor, I will use every tool at my disposal to achieve our shared goal of having enough housing for everyone.
What is your plan to increase housing affordability?
Housing supply and affordability are complimentary, so a key strategy to increase affordability is to build more housing (see first question).
Oregon also needs to support the construction of different housing options like townhomes, duplexes and triplexes in our neighborhoods. As Speaker, I led the effort to pass a groundbreaking policy that re-legalized these missing housing types that are a great option for families hoping to purchase their first home and seniors who want to age in their communities. As Governor, I will continue to support the successful implementation of this law.
In addition, we have to create a statewide, long-term rent assistance program to help very low-income Oregonians stay housed and improve access to home ownership by increasing down payment assistance, access to secondary loans, and homeownership education through culturally specific organizations.
Should the state’s land-use laws be changed? If so, how? If not, why?
Like most Oregonians, I strongly support the vision of Oregon’s land use system, which protects the forests, farmland, and natural areas that make our state such an amazing place to call home. Our land use laws were also designed to support growth within urban growth boundaries and make sure there is adequate housing as our population increases. As Governor, I would build on my record of bold land use reform and take further action to make sure that the system as a whole is working as intended.
For example, I led the effort to re-legalize housing options that had previously been banned in cities around the state. When I introduced that bill in 2019, duplexes weren’t allowed on 77% of the land that was zoned for homes in Portland. Now, every city with a population higher than 10,000 must allow the construction of duplexes wherever stand-alone homes already go.
In 2021, I also pushed to pass a bill to help local governments cut through red tape so they can more quickly create emergency shelters for our neighbors without homes. House Bill 2006 allowed local governments to waive design, planning and zoning regulations to approve the siting of emergency shelters (while still complying with certain building codes and public health and safety requirements).
Should there be a quicker, less burdensome way to expand urban growth boundaries? If not, why? If yes, how would you accomplish that?
We must balance our housing needs with being good stewards of the land that is in our care. If cities have truly done everything they can to plan for and meaningfully achieve housing development within their urban growth boundary (UGB), then there should be a less burdensome path to expand the UGB for housing. This will require increased public investment in infrastructure to make sure land planned for housing, both within the UGB and in future growth areas, can actually be developed successfully.
Improved planning for housing will bring clarity to UGB expansion discussions. My bill in 2019 requires Oregon’s cities over 10,000 people to develop strategies that will encourage the production of the housing that their residents need.
What needs to be done to address racial disparities that exist in Oregon housing today due to public policies that were discriminatory in the past?
Improving housing choices and housing affordability in all neighborhoods will help Oregon correct for past discriminatory practices. I’m also the only candidate that has a specific plan to reduce the racial homeownership gap by 20 percent by 2027 by:
● Increasing down payment assistance, access to secondary loans, and homeownership education through culturally specific organizations to reach Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) households across the state;
● Expanding opportunities for homeownership by supporting community land trusts and shared equity homeownership programs as anti-displacement strategies;
● Promoting affordable homeownership by developing diverse affordable housing types like duplexes, triplexes, and quads in high opportunity areas for homeownership; and
● Cracking down on discrimination by partnering with the federal government and community organizations to enforce fair housing laws more effectively in Oregon.
Should Oregon be subsidizing more housing? If so, where and what type of housing? And where would the money come from?
Yes. A recent assessment of statewide housing needs in Oregon found that we have a shortage of almost 85,000 units that people earning low incomes (less than 80% of the average median income) can actually afford. Experts have shown that the private market cannot deliver new housing that is affordable at this level without public support. The state needs to identify an ongoing revenue source to help address this gap, and we also need more help from the federal government. The federal government has abandoned their commitment to affordable housing. As Governor, I will bring our federal partners to the table to do their fair share to make sure we have enough affordable housing for everyone who needs it in Oregon.
In terms of housing types, these are decisions that local communities make with extensive public input. As Governor, I will work with local governments to build more affordable housing and ensure that it is equitably available in every neighborhood.
What are your thoughts on Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order to consider how to reduce climate pollution when creating new housing?
I think increasing the supply of affordable housing will help Oregon reach its climate goals because of reduced transportation emissions from shorter commutes and the creation of more walkable or transit-friendly communities. I just met with local business leaders in Springfield, and it was helpful to hear directly from them about how the rulemaking connected to this executive order will impact them locally. I support getting more resources to local governments to help implement the executive order. We need to keep pushing forward on efforts to reduce pollution and build resilient communities, while also taking feedback from local leaders and giving them the support they need to be successful.
Do you think the “middle housing” bill to allow for the creation of duplexes and triplexes on any lot of a city with a population of more than 10,000 will work as planned? Does it need to be tweaked at all?
It is already working – cities are reporting development of these housing types. I was proud to spearhead this effort, and local leaders across Oregon are pointing to the bill as a reason their communities are building more homes that middle class families can afford, especially young people and seniors on fixed incomes who are at risk of being priced out of their communities.
In 2019, I also introduced a related bill that will help us answer your question about whether the “middle housing” bill is moving the needle or if other housing solutions are needed. The Housing Needs and Production Bill (HB 2003) ensured that Oregon’s large cities would develop meaningful action plans to build housing in their communities. The bill also resulted in the first ever statewide assessment of housing need by affordability level. Better data will guide us to better solutions.
Going forward, I will fight for strategies to build affordable “middle housing” in communities around the state, especially in high opportunity areas for home ownership. I will also listen to local communities and work in collaboration to support their work to meet their specific housing needs. Local leaders are working hard, and as Governor, I will partner with them in this incredibly important work.
Who would you appoint to lead the head of the Department of Land Conservation and Development?
The director of DLCD is appointed by the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission. The seven commissioners are unpaid citizen volunteers, and the statute establishing the commission requires that they represent certain regions of the state. I would look for engaged, qualified people to serve on the Commission to ensure continuous and solid leadership of this agency.
Have you ever been a landlord? If so, could you share details of what type of property you owned or own?
I have never been a landlord. But I have been a renter, and I understand the uncertainty that an unexpected rent increase can bring to your life. That’s why I fought to pass a first-in-the-nation law to establish caps on rent increases and prevent rent gouging.
I also respect property owners who are providing housing options across the state. That’s why my housing plan includes creating a Housing Provider Council that consists of private landlords, affordable housing providers, and tenant rights advocates to address barriers to keeping tenants housed.
What housing policy have you either sponsored or voted on has been the most meaningful and why?
All three candidates for Governor held leadership positions in the Oregon Legislature. But I am the only one who used my time in office to tackle Oregon’s housing crisis head on. Year after year, I successfully fought for billions of dollars and dozens of policy changes that are helping real people, every day, including:
● Securing $215 million to prevent the eviction of thousands of renters during the COVID public health emergency;
● Securing more than $1.5 billion to increase housing access, shelter capacity, rent assistance, and other housing needs.
● Securing $75 million for Project Turnkey, an innovative program that turns vacant motels into emergency shelters. In its first seven months, Project Turnkey increased the state’s supply of shelter beds by 20%, adding 865 new housing units for people in need.
● Challenging the status quo by passing laws to:
○ Protect renters by establishing just eviction standards and prohibiting extreme rent increases.
○ Require local governments to take meaningful action to address their local housing crisis and require the state to assess housing needs over the next 20 years so we can comprehensively tackle this crisis.
○ Legalize more housing options for Oregon families by eliminating red tape and allowing construction of more housing options like duplexes, triplexes, cottage clusters and townhomes.
○ Streamline the process to build and regulate emergency shelters and new affordable housing.
There’s no doubt that the housing crisis is one of the most urgent issues we face as a state – we’re in the middle of a humanitarian crisis. But the situation on our streets and in our neighborhoods could actually be much worse, and Betsy Johnson and Christine Drazan actually fought against most of the progress we have been able to make. It’s easy for politicians to drive past tents in downtown Portland and criticize the “status quo.” But Oregonians are too fed up for that to fly anymore. I am the only candidate with a track record of identifying and passing real, concrete housing solutions. We don’t have time to waste, and as Governor, I will build on my strong foundation of effective action to make sure every single Oregonian has a safe and stable home that they can afford.