Why access to safe, stable affordable housing matters
Housing has long been one of Meyer’s highest priorities, because we recognize that housing is an essential foundation for thriving families and equitable communities. Too many Oregonians lack that foundation, and public commitment of resources has not kept pace with the growing need for safe, stable and affordable housing.
Even Oregonians with steady jobs can struggle to find housing they can afford. In some rural communities, it has been years since new housing has been built, and a lack of available housing is serious enough to threaten economic vitality. Employers that are expanding and hiring report that their new workers struggle to find housing in towns and cities across the state. In tourist-oriented areas like the coast, the gorge and central Oregon, the situation is even worse, as second homes and short-term rentals reduce supply even further.
The situation in the larger cities of Oregon — and the Portland area in particular — is different but not necessarily better. A lack of new construction during the recession left those cities with a shortage of housing in the face of rising demand and some of the fastest rising rents and home prices in the U.S. over the past few years. Even as thousands of new units come online, the cost of housing tends to be far above what lower and moderate-income households and families can afford, and renters are vulnerable to cascading shocks of displacement in a tight and expensive market.
For those on a fixed income or working for very low wages, housing instability can be literally life-threatening. When housing costs rise too high, households and families have to make brutally difficult decisions between making the rent and paying for food, medicine, utilities, transportation and/or other basic necessities. A growing body of research shows that housing instability contributes directly to poor performance in school, difficulties getting and keeping a good job, and poor health outcomes.
We all pay the cost of these consequences that spill over into society. Every other investment we make in our communities is jeopardized when people are unable to find affordable housing.
High rents are far from the only urgent housing issue in the state. More housing and lower rents are both really important, but achieving a truly flourishing and equitable Oregon will require us to overcome other serious issues, including substandard housing conditions, fair housing and equal access, and coordination with essential services.
We also know that all these housing issues disproportionately affect people of color. The long history of discrimination and policies that favored white Oregonians feed into a dynamic where African Americans, the Latinx Community, Native Americans and immigrants and refugees face far higher barriers to safe, decent and affordable housing. People of color are more likely to be homeless, more likely to face discrimination and substandard housing, and more likely to pay a high percentage of their income for housing. People with disabilities, seniors, LGBTQ+ communities and other vulnerable populations also experience specific housing challenges that the market won’t address on its own. Oregon can do better, and Meyer is determined to help.