A few years after I arrived in Portland, I was living in a small, dingy apartment. One morning I awoke with a sharp pain on my forehead. When I opened my eyes, I saw a rat sitting on my head, staring down at me. I still bear a scar in the middle of my forehead from the bite he gave me, and I’m reminded of my experience living in unsafe housing conditions every time I look in the mirror. The apartment I lived in was not in great shape, and needed quite a lot of repairs. As a low-income refugee, the last thing you want to do is upset your landlord. I easily could have been evicted with no-cause, thus, I did not complain to my landlord and did not move immediately.
Unfortunately, I personally know many people in our district still living like this. It’s unconscionable that our communities are suffering from access to clean drinkable water, lead pipes, poor and leaking indoor plumbing, and exposure to rats and unsafe living conditions. This should not be reality in a nation with the resources and wealth that we have.
Moving To Solutions
As the next Oregon Senator from District 24, I will work to attack the housing crisis from many angles, including changing incentives for developers. As long as it is more profitable to build high-priced housing than to build workforce housing, we will continue to struggle with this issue. We can begin solving this problem by allowing denser housing and simpler planning and permitting, in combination with other changes to our housing markets to bring affordable housing options onto the market. All options will be exhausted, including looking into state government directly building housing. I believe that this problem is serious enough that every possible solution needs to be exhausted.We have delayed addressing this crisis for too long.
We need to end no-cause evictions, enable localities to enact rent control, and fully lift the ban on inclusionary zoning, but these alone will not solve the problem. Housing policy solutions should be intersectional for maximum benefit. This means looking at multiple factors, including healthcare, child care, transportation, food insecurity, mental health and addiction services, and all the other social and economic policies impacting people’s lives.
Specific housing policy priorities:
Protecting rights of the renters by banning no-cause evictions and lifting the prohibition on rent control: When elected, I plan to champion an equivalent bill to HB 2004 and to go beyond that. We need strong renter protections in Oregon.
Helping more Oregonians get into home market so they can buy their own homes: I was able to buy my own home because I was able to get FHA loan, and we need to develop state-specific programs that support home ownership.
Addressing our houselessness crisis by ensuring we create a stable and affordable housing supply so we can move families and individuals off of the streets. We need to create a long-term strategy that includes a holistic approach that provides wraparound services for people struggling with mental health and addiction.
Although these are some practical steps to address housing crises we are facing, long-term housing solutions should start with de-segregated data collection so we can analyze and better understand who is impacted. In addition, we need to ensure that we have culturally specific strategies that include larger multi-family housing units, as we are changing demographically, and not every family fits traditional nuclear American family structure. Similarly, we must ensure that notices to appear in court are translated into multiple languages, and that people are afforded legal representation as well as interpreters. Many times community members who are facing housing issues, such as evictions, do not understand their rights.
Involve People in the Solutions
I don’t believe in simply representing the houseless as if they are numbers on a spreadsheet. I believe in organizing, movement building, and ensuring people are given a seat at the table to represent themselves. I want to hear from people about what they need and want, and plan to create opportunities within the Senate for houseless residents to be part of the policymaking process. These are people who have needs and desires that need to be addressed. In order to implement solutions, we need more funding. That is one of the largest failures of the current legislature.