August 15, 2022
Director Bell emphasizes state, local partnership
at Oregon Mayors Conference panel discussion on homelessness
LINCOLN CITY, Ore. — In a panel discussion on homelessness with local leaders on Friday, August 10, Oregon Housing and Community Services Director Andrea Bell outlined what the state is doing to prevent and end homelessness.
“We are continuing to focus on supply, supply, supply—supply of affordable housing,” she said at the annual Oregon Mayors Association Summer Conference. “We don’t have enough affordable housing and haven’t had enough for a very long time. We also need to open up that stock of affordable housing by opening up pathways to homeownership. At the same time, we need to focus on preservation of affordable housing.”
Accompanied on the panel by North Bend Mayor Jessica Engelke and Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall, who provided their own cities’ experiences and efforts, Bell emphasized the importance of partnership between leaders on the state and local level.
“We’ve been able to make some collective strides,” Bell said. “It’s not just because of the state. It is primarily because of the partnerships we have with leaders, with leaders like yourselves, with leaders of these communities who are actually doing this work on the ground.”
Permanent supportive housing is one area where progress is being made. In 2019, OHCS set out to increase the number of new units by 1,000 by 2023. That goal has not only been met but exceeded a year early with more than 1,200 created across the state.
Working with local governments to fund and build navigation centers is another way these partnerships have worked to get things done. It is these innovative solutions that have proven to be—and will continue to be—real solutions and pathways to help get people out of unsheltered homelessness and into permanent homeownership, Bell said.
Although progress has been made, there is still much to be done.
“We are here today because we do not accept homelessness is a fact of life; we do not accept housing instability as a fact of life,” Bell said. “And so that’s great, but what are we going to do about it?”
One of the agencies’ priorities is to quickly work to increase the statewide supply of affordable housing options. OHCS is more than 80% of the way to meeting the Statewide Housing Plan goal to fund 25,000 affordable rental homes with more than 21,000 in the pipeline.
In addition to preparing to ask the Legislature for $800 million in funding for the 2023-25 biennium to sustain homeless services and eviction prevention, among its other programs, OHCS will continue to listen for feedback from local governments.
“The reality is that at the end of the day, our job, our responsibility is to the people of Oregon and to all of you to have what you need from us.”