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Oregon Dems unveil $400M homelessness and affordable housing agenda

Democrats want to put the money toward shelter space, affordable housing and bringing homeownership into reach for more Oregonians.
Credit: Portland Business Journal

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Democrats on Thursday unveiled a sweeping $400 million policy agenda to ease the state's housing and homelessness crises, less than two weeks before the short legislative session comes to a close.

The session ends the second week of March. Before then, Democrats want to get money firmly in the hopper for three key sources of relief: added shelter space for people experiencing homelessness, constructing affordable housing and bringing homeownership into reach for more Oregonians.

A little more than 4,000 people were experiencing homelessness in Multnomah County in 2019, which is among the latest official counts available. Lawmakers propose breaking out the $400 million by putting $165 million toward homelessness relief statewide, including "rapid rehousing" and added shelter space. Those funds would pay for a second round for what's called Project Turnkey 2.0 to repurpose hotels and other kinds of buildings into housing or shelter space.

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The original Project Turnkey, coordinated by Oregon Community Foundation, churned out 19 shelters across 13 counties in less than seven months, according to a report to the Legislature. OCF reported the creation of 865 new units of housing, at an average cost of $87,700 per unit.

House Majority Leader Julie Fahey has told the Business Journal the Project Turnkey 2.0 sought $50 million to pay for around 10 property acquisitions.

A key difference between the first and second versions of Project Turnkey is that the new one may turn to different kinds of buildings besides hotels.

"We want to focus on motels, but we want to expand that to potentially include commercial or institutional properties, as long as the property can be quickly transitioned to use as shelter or transitional housing," Rep. Pam Marsh, a Southern Jackson County Democrat, said in a recent interview.

Read the full story at the Portland Business Journal.

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