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Creating Inclusive Communities

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Increasing Housing Opportunity and Affordability Statewide Through Intentional Planning

Did you know that 3 out of 4 Oregon renters with extremely low income (earning less than 30 percent of area median income) pay 50 percent of their income on rent and utilities? Or that 1 in 4 Oregon renters are paying more than 50 percent of their income on rent and utilities? 

There is a severe lack of access to housing opportunities for many Oregonians. Creating more types of affordable living options would benefit the most rent-burdened groups. That is why the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 2003 along with House Bill 2001 in 2019 to reduce land-use limitations to legalize middle housing.

HB 2003 requires that Oregon cities with a population of 10,000 or more study the future housing needs of their residents. It also requires them to develop strategies that encourage the production of housing their residents most need. To supplement these requirements, the bill initiated a prototype Regional Housing Needs Analysis (RHNA) to investigate a program where housing needs are estimated and allocated on a regional level. Oregon Housing and Community Services released this report in February 2021, that emphasized the need for the RHNA.

With House Bill 2001, the state legislature took a historic step to reducing the regulatory barriers to building more affordable and accessible housing in every community in Oregon. Additionally, the new Housing Production Strategies (HPS) document requires cities to come up with plans to address how they will more equitably meet their housing needs.

By supporting more housing types, housing opportunity is addressed as well. Previously, because of land use restrictions, multi-unit housing often had been restricted to only certain parts of town. Now that cities must allow duplexes on single-family lots, it can create housing that is more affordable for those who would like to live there.

One type of housing that is now easier to build on single-family lots is Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). ADUs have the opportunity to create greater housing affordability, increase accessibility for people with disabilities, and may better allow residents to “age-in-place,” as our population ages.

Jamie Gatewood and Samuel Goldberg giving a virtual Inclusive Communities training this past September.

Combatting Exclusion

Despite this new legislation, allowing something to be built is far from a guarantee that it will be built, and in many cases the biggest obstacle is now an attitude of “Not in My Backyard” from community members, otherwise known as NIMBYism. NIMBYism is often adopted by those who reject certain changes to their communities and can stand in the way of fair housing rights, which guarantee everyone an equal opportunity to live where they want. Commonly the reasoning behind this type of mentality comes from unwarranted fears of increased crime, decreased property values, and other potentially negative impacts on their communities.

As part of Fair Housing Council of Oregon’s education and outreach initiatives, we created educational trainings to address NIMBYism. Our approach to this issue includes two strategies:

1.    Explain why this housing is needed, dispel harmful myths about who will be using it, and show how it will benefit the entire community. 

2.    Explain that when opposition to the needed housing is a proxy for hostility to a protected class (which often takes the form of “dog whistle” or “red flag” language), then this is not an adequate reason for elected officials to reject the housing.


McMinnville City Council’s Inclusive Communities training with FHCO.

Creating Inclusive Communities

Alternatively, Inclusive Communities is a framework that promotes housing justice, equity, and inclusion in all Oregon neighborhoods. This philosophy allows for the understanding that everyone deserves a safe place to live where opportunities are available. Inclusivity and increased housing opportunity break down harmful stereotypes and misconceptions about needed housing types and their effect on the community. Check out our Inclusive Communities Good Neighbor Guide to find out how you can advocate for much needed affordable housing and access to housing for everyone in your neighborhood.

Plans and policies set by city councils and planners direct where housing will be built and how many people are allowed to live there, ultimately dictating where low-income renters can live. Land use restrictions should be designed to separate uses, not users.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits state and local land use and zoning laws, policies, and practices that discriminate based on protected class, including race, color, national origin, sex, religion, familial status, and disability. At the state level, in Oregon these also include marital status, source of income, and sexual orientation (including gender identity). Oregon as a state also strengthens protections for victims of domestic violence through Landlord Tenant Laws. 

To support city council members and planners in their work, Jamie Gatewood and Samuel Goldberg, two members of FHCO’s Education and Outreach team provided a training this past September for the City of McMinnville that included members of City Council, the Planning Commission, the Affordable Housing Committee, the Rental Inspection Committee, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Committee (DEIAC) and the Housing Authority Board.

Jamie and Samuel met with the group beforehand to find out the specific city-planning needs of McMinnville, including issues like socioeconomic and racial segregation. The training included Fair Housing basics, an overview of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), and how to create and support inclusive communities. Through this training, FHCO helped these groups further understand how to rectify instances of past harm based on housing planning.

The City of Albany and Corvallis also came together for a training with Jamie and Samuel to support creating inclusive communities that included city staff, planning commissions, and members of the public. This training utilized examples from the City of Bend, which executed an illuminating Analysis to Impediments of Fair Housing (AI) that showed clear racial segregation and a division of services based on geographic location.

FHCO offers tailored Inclusive Communities trainings; sign up here to host a training for your group or organization. We may be able to offer no-cost trainings for groups on a strict budget. Community members who want to learn how to be fair housing advocates are encouraged to contact us directly for more information.

 

 

 

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