Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek hopes to persuade the state Legislature to commit at least $40 million to help finance new shelters for the homeless this year. If she’s successful, the money will be a good step in efforts to provide relief for Oregon’s least fortunate residents, though it’s a long way from solving the problem.
Kotek, who in the 2019 session was a leading advocate for the nation’s first rent control bill and for a measure that eliminates single-family zoning in many communities, may find herself in an uphill battle this year. Gov. Kate Brown hopes for between $150 million and $200 million to finance the first leg of a years-long program to reduce the state’s vulnerability to wildfire.
She also wants lawmakers to stash half of a predicted $1 billion in unanticipated revenues away as a cushion against the next recession.
Kotek, meanwhile, not only hopes for shelter money, she wants funds to address problems in the state’s adult behavioral health care services and to help fight substance abuse problems.
Oregon’s problems in its child welfare system cannot be overlooked. While the state is making progress in addressing them, it’s likely to require more money to complete the task and maintain a new, higher level of service.
All are worthy, even vital causes.
That said, Kotek’s plan seems to overlook a step that would not only help ease the homelessness problems here but also address the skyrocketing cost of all housing in much of Oregon. Oregon land-use law makes it too difficult for communities to grow as need and demand would have them do. That, in turn, drives up the cost of all housing.
Kotek has said in the past she doesn’t want to see Portland become another San Francisco, where an average home sells for more than $800,000. Yet unless communities can spread, and do so easily, that’s a real possibility.