‘A man-made disaster’: Oregon’s new governor tackles housing
Oregon Democratic Gov., Tina Kotek, will focus on affordable housing and combatting homelessness. Learn more here.
By CLAIRE RUSH/Associated Press/Report for America
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s newly sworn-in Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek signed three executive orders intended to combat homelessness on her first full day in office Tuesday, a sign of how critical the shortage of affordable housing has become in the state and across the nation.
The orders call for boosting construction and marshaling resources to help the nearly 18,000 people living outside in Oregon.
Advocates welcomed the measures. But they said that shoring up mental health and addiction services must also occur in order to help people move off the street.
Just last year, Oregon lawmakers passed a spending package that included $400 million to address homelessness and housing. But soaring inflation, rising rents and a spiraling drug addiction crisis have meant that that money hasn’t gone as far as it needs to in reducing the state’s homeless population.
The first executive order declares a homeless emergency for most of the state; the second directs state agencies to prioritize reducing homelessness; and the third sets a housing construction target of 36,000 units per year, an 80% increase over current production, in a bid to address the state’s housing shortage.
Oregon is among the five states — along with California, Louisiana, Tennessee and Arizona — that have seen the largest increases in the number of people living outside since 2020. Its homeless population has grown by more than 3,300 people since then, a 22.5% increase, according to an annual report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Kotek described the emergency declaration, which applies to regions where the number of unsheltered homeless people has increased by at least 50% since 2017, as similar to “what we do when there’s a natural disaster.”
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