Advocating for Affordable Housing

This month’s newsletter spotlights a guest column by Alison McIntosh, deputy director of policy and communications at Neighborhood Partnerships and coordinator for the Oregon Housing Alliance, which is composed of 85+ member organizations and supporters from around the state.

Each year in February, the Oregon Legislature convenes to write or balance a budget, to pass laws to improve our state, and to address pressing issues. Each year, housing advocates come together as the Oregon Housing Alliance to present the Legislature with ideas, proposals and requests to help more Oregonians have safe, stable and affordable places to call home.

In 2018, as in all even-numbered years, the legislative session will be quick — only 35 short days. To meet the constitutionally imposed time limit, legislators focus on a small number of issues and impose strict deadlines for committees. To the legislators and advocates, each day may feel like a week, but the session will move incredibly fast. For housing advocates, this gives limited but important opportunities to advance our work this session.

The Oregon Housing Alliance has come together every session since 2005 to ask the Legislature to create housing opportunities for Oregonians. Our coalition talks about a range of topics, including homelessness, tenant protections, increasing access to homeownership, development of new homes and preserving existing homes.

In 2018, the Housing Alliance will  be asking for one big step forward: to increase the document recording fee. This fee is used to ensure more of our neighbors can find safe and affordable homes. The fee is paid when someone buys a new home or property, and it goes to make sure others can have the same. Some of it goes to help our neighbors avoid homelessness through emergency rent assistance, another part goes to build and preserve critical affordable homes throughout Oregon, and a last part goes to help families to afford first homes through down payment assistance or to attend a homeownership education class.

Oregon is facing our biggest housing crisis to date, and we’re glad we have so many tools and partners to meet today’s challenges. We know how to successfully create housing stability and opportunities for families; more resources through the document recording fee will go a long way to address the crisis facing our state. Other priorities will be identified in early 2018, when the Housing Alliance releases its 2018 Housing Opportunity Agenda.

The Housing Alliance is organizing for Feb. 15 another Housing Opportunity Day, a chance for housing advocates and anyone who cares about finding solutions to our housing crisis to go to Salem to learn more about working together to make change. It’s fun and important! Read more here.

Oregon needs us to come together, calling on creativity and innovation, to create housing opportunities that will carry Oregon forward, make families and communities stronger and more vibrant, and build a more equitable foundation for all. Please sign up for our mailing list here to stay in touch with the Housing Alliance and get updates on how you can join this important work.

— Alison McIntosh, deputy director of policy and communications at Neighborhood Partnerships and coordinator for the Oregon Housing Alliance, which is composed of 85+ member organizations and supporters from around the state

Attendees at Housing Opportunity Day 2017 gathered in Salem to advocate to lawmakers for much-needed resources to meet Oregon’s housing needs including a visit with legislative aides for Rep. Carla Piluso, D-Gresham and a self advocate with the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Attendees at Housing Opportunity Day 2017 gathered in Salem to advocate to lawmakers for much-needed resources to meet Oregon’s housing needs, including a visit with legislative aides for Rep. Carla Piluso, D-Gresham, and a self advocate with the Oregon C

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A whole new magnitude of change for LGBTQ communities in Oregon

Meyer Memorial Trust and Pride Foundation have been long-time partners, and share a deep and ongoing commitment to advancing equity in our foundations and more broadly in the field of philanthropy. Pride Foundation is a community foundation working in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho and Alaska to inspire giving to advance opportunities and expand full equality for LGBTQ people.

Ever since Meyer CEO, Doug Stamm, and Pride Foundation CEO, Kris Hermanns, participated in a CEO learning cohort to help them advance equity, diversity, and inclusion at their foundations, we have found ways to learn from and support one another’s journeys over the years.

In 2015, Meyer offered critical financial support to help us deepen our racial equity work and host a Philanthropy Northwest Momentum Fellow, a fellowship program to create a pipeline for underrepresented professionals, particular people of color, to find entry points into philanthropy. Pride Foundation has offered our knowledge and expertise about the issues LGBTQ communities face in Oregon to help Meyer further integrate LGBTQ issues within their equity lens over the past few years, including coordinating all-staff trainings and programmatic support.  

This year, Pride Foundation is deeply honored that Meyer has chosen to make another significant investment to support our work in Oregon.

This could not have come at a more critical time for community philanthropy and the LGBTQ community in Oregon. As Pride Foundation finalizes our merger with Equity Foundation (an LGBTQ community foundation that had been working just here in Oregon), the opportunity to grow the resources to create safe, affirming communities for everyone in Oregon is enormous. More broadly, LGBTQ people in our state still face structural discrimination and racism, and our movement continues to experience significant backlash to the progress we have made. On top of this, the organizations working on our behalf have been chronically underinvested in, resulting in lean and unstable infrastructure to support our community.

Over the next three years, Meyer is awarding Pride Foundation a total of $225,000. $150,000 will help to grow our capacity and continue to deepen and expand our work in Oregon. Meyer is also investing an additional $50,000 for us to fully implement our racial equity innovation plan to center racial equity in everything we do at Pride Foundation.

To help us further solidify our efforts and encourage others to make similar investments, Meyer has also put forward a $25,000 challenge grant. Over the next few months, our supporters will have the opportunity to make a critical investment in our work in Oregon — and have that support doubled by Meyer.

"Meyer is excited to partner with Pride Foundation in expanding opportunities and advancing full equality for LGBTQ people across Oregon," said Candy Solovjovs, Meyer's Director of Programs. "We hope our investment inspires others to join us in providing philanthropic support and helping to create an Oregon where all LGBTQ people are valued, safe, and supported."

We are profoundly appreciative of Meyer’s continued investment in our work — and in LGBTQ people and communities throughout Oregon.

Data from the National LGBTQ Task Force and Center for American Progress demonstrates just how at-risk LGBTQ immigrants and refugees are from this administration’s actions:

  • Nationwide, there are more than 267,000 LGBTQ adults who are undocumented without a path to citizenship — nearly one-third of all LGBTQ adult immigrants.
  • LGBTQ people who are undocumented are disproportionately more likely to be arrested and detained by ICE.
  • LGBTQ detainees are fifteen times more likely to be assaulted when they are in detention — particularly transgender women.
  • Over 75 countries have discriminatory laws that target LGBTQ people, and in 7, a person can be put to death for being LGBTQ — resulting in thousands of people applying for asylum each year.

This grant award is certainly significant to us locally, but it also points to a critical step on Meyer’s part to address some troubling statistics about the level of institutional investments in LGBTQ communities more broadly.

Despite the growing need for support and services, funding from private, community, and corporate foundations for LGBTQ issues continues to be alarmingly low — and is steadily decreasing. While we have made progress, LGBTQ communities are still not invested in at the rate that is required to fully address the needs of everyone in our community.

This underinvestment, coupled with the fact that LGBTQ people continue to face harsh conditions across many aspects of our lives — especially elders, people of color, transgender people, Two Spirit people, youth, immigrants and people living in rural communities — paints a stark reality for so many in our community.

Impacting these deep-rooted issues and creating lasting change will take continued, focused effort — and resources. This fact makes us that much more grateful for Meyer’s ongoing partnership, leadership and commitment to LGBTQ issues and communities in Oregon — because it is a clear indication that change is indeed happening.

— Katie Carter

Pride Foundation - LGBTQ Equity cardstack

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Pride Foundation’s 2017 Oregon scholarship recipients, receiving their scholarship awards and being honored for their leadership at the 2017 Scholarship Celebration in Portland.

Pride Foundation’s 2017 Oregon scholarship recipients, receiving their scholarship awards and being honored for their leadership at the 2017 Scholarship Celebration in Portland.

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Why salary compensation transparency can counteract equity

In The 360 Group’s work as executive search consultants to foundations and nonprofits, we know that transparency around compensation is a perennially thorny issue, especially for observers outside the sector. I thought I would share some thoughts about how we approach compensation transparency, particularly in light of our efforts to make diversity and equity a priority in our work.

For a bit of background: I launched The 360 Group 13 years ago, specifically with an eye on making the sector more diverse, more contemporary, and better prepared to address a whole new set of challenges in this complicated era. Our view is that more diverse teams — and more diversity in leadership — maximize the variety of perspectives that organizations need to be successful and effective. Countless studies have demonstrated the power of diversity in groups and teams, only emboldening our firm’s mission and theory of change. Diversity in groups can also make what can be challenging work a hell of a lot more fun.

Beyond compensation, then, our goal is to extend our reach and that of our clients’ to identify people from all backgrounds and walks of life for leadership opportunities. To do that, we want to reduce barriers for candidates, rather than build them up (and those barriers can be completely artificial). Our charge is to understand organizations well and identify candidates who can lead them and have the desire to do so with passion, heart and values.

At The 360 Group, our decisions about compensation for a given position are guided by market comparables and the skills and value of a candidate. We do not tie executive compensation to salary history. We know that women and people of color are represented in just a fraction of leadership roles — across every sector. To build that leadership bank, especially in senior positions, we seek out candidate pools of devoted (and often underpaid) nonprofit professionals as well as highly-paid executives. The salary one has earned shouldn’t dictate the salary one may earn. That is our philosophy and commitment in this work.

Sometimes, we field the question: why not post a salary range for the CEO role? Our answer comes from the heart: we don’t want otherwise fabulous people to self-select out. To be truly committed to equity (which we are), creating even the perception of obstacles runs at cross-purposes to acting in equity. For better or worse, in the philanthropic field, salaries and compensation packages are all over the map. That is why we rely on independent market analyses and our compensation expert colleagues to inform ranges for our client organizations. So if a role is valued at between, say, $300,000 and $500,000, the person who is ultimately selected will be compensated in that range — regardless of whether they have earned a fraction of that amount or orders of magnitude more. That is equity in compensation, a practice we have relied on from the inception of our firm, and just one important ingredient in our efforts to bring diversity and equity to our sector.

— Vincent

Photo caption: A calculator in the palm of a business person's hand reads "Equity."
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2017 Oregon legislative session housing agenda recap

The 2017 Oregon legislative session started with big promises. The business community, advocates and legislators had hoped to develop a revenue package that would avoid massive cuts to safety net programs.

Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed due to party politics and the lack of political will in Salem to address Oregon’s ongoing housing crisis.

Saying that, there was good work to addressing housing issues that we all collectively accomplished this legislative session.

“The Oregon Legislature said addressing our housing crisis was one of their top priorities heading into the 2017 session,” said Alison McIntosh with the Oregon Housing Alliance. “We made progress in some areas, including investments in emergency rent assistance, development, and preservation.”

“However, the Legislature failed to pass legislation that would have provided basic protections for people who rent their homes,” McIntosh goes on to say. “While we are grateful for the leadership and investments, we know the Legislature has more work to do so that all Oregonians have safe, stable, and affordable housing. We know that together, we can solve our housing crisis. People in our communities don’t need to sleep or die on our streets.”

This Session’s victories

The Oregon legislature delivered on some important revenue options to support affordable housing and homeless services.

The following investments were made in Salem.

  • $80 million in general obligation bonds to build more affordable housing for the biennium

  • $25 million in lottery bonds to preserve existing affordable housing for the biennium

  • $40 million in emergency rent assistance and shelter for the biennium

  • $25 million a year in tax credits to help build or preserve affordable housing

These investments were absolutely critical to go to support our most vulnerable residents in Oregon.

Other important victories on the housing front include small investments for a land acquisition program for affordable housing, legislation that allows churches to build affordable housing on their land and tools to help local jurisdictions understand what housing is being lost and what housing is needed for future planning.

Giving churches the opportunity to build affordable housing on their own property is huge. With a coordinated faith and affordable housing strategy, Oregon could be looking at some amazing projects on the horizon.

Saying that, in order to begin to address the housing crisis statewide the governor and state legislature are going to have to start prioritize housing in a more intentional way.

This Session’s misses  

Street Roots estimates that Oregon should be investing an additional $250 million annually in affordable housing projects and tens of millions more for emergency homeless services.

Of course, the biggest loss for Oregonians was the lack of action on tenant protections and the ability to move legislation to avoid subsidizing wealthy homeowners through the mortgage interest deduction program.

By not creating any restrictions on landlords for rent increases or no cause evictions the Oregon legislature is more or less helping contribute to homelessness and gentrification.

People on social security, elders, single parents and others will continue to be faced with hard choices, displacement and homelessness.

Let’s not forget that many elders and people with disabilities have monthly incomes of less than $750.

It doesn’t take a mathematician or an economist to understand that that’s not going to pay for a safe place to call home on the private market.

The reality is without government intervention Oregonians will continue to be evicted from their homes without having any housing alternatives.

The legislature also walked away from more than $300 million of ongoing money that could be going to support people in poverty and affordable housing by not reforming the mortgage interest deduction program. Oregonians making more than $200,000 or who own two or three homes in Oregon are currently being subsidized for housing while thousands of Oregonians are sleeping on our streets or in emergency shelters. That’s not even close to be equitable.

We have work to do

The Oregon legislature for too long has gotten away with managing the issue of affordable housing, instead of making it a priority. Housing should be every bit as much of a priority for Oregon Democrats and Republicans as jobs, transportation and schools.

The housing crisis in Oregon is not going away. In fact, given the current political climate in Washington D.C., growth speculation around the state and the loss of living wage jobs — we fully expect the problem to continue to get worse before it gets better.

It’s up to all of us to work together to help create political will to help end people’s homelessness and to invest in affordable housing. We know that without housing, it’s impossible to have a healthy society. Let’s do better together. Let’s find a way to continue to support an affordable housing movement in Oregon.

— This article ran in Street Roots on July 7, 2017,

The handle of a doorknob at the Capitol building in Salem reads: State of Oregon – 1859

The handle of a doorknob at the Capitol building in Salem reads, "State of Oregon – 1859."

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