Tools. Updates. Action.

Candidate Commitments on Community Issues

Nonpartisan Questions for Oregon Senate District 3 Candidates

From the Rogue Action Center

Oregon Senate District 3 voters deserve specific commitments from candidates, regardless of party, instead of “trust me” rhetoric that too often results in policies that benefit only corporate special interests and the wealthiest elites.

No list can include every important issue that will come before the Oregon legislature in the next two years, but answers to this questionnaire will give voters a good picture of the type of commitments each candidate is willing to make.

Note: Questionnaires were sent to all candidates who filed with the Oregon Secretary of State by the deadline for the 2018 May Primary, and to the incumbent, Alan Deboer.

Sen. DeBoer and candidates Curt Ankerberg and Jessica Gomez  declined to respond to the questionnaire.

Candidate responses appear as submitted, they have not been edited.

The Rogue Action Center does not endorse candidates for public office.

Read More

Local cities have tools to address affordable housing crisis

Guest Opinion published in Medford Mail Tribune, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018
http://www.mailtribune.com/opinion/20180204/guest-opinion-local-cities-have-tools-to-address-affordable-housing-crisis

Thousands of households in Jackson County are facing an affordable housing crisis. In the next few months, the cities of Medford, Phoenix, Eagle Point, Central Point and Talent have an opportunity to take action. Residents will be able to help shape changes that will affect these cities for decades to come.

Every city in Oregon is required by state law to have local plans that “encourage the availability of adequate numbers of needed housing units at price ranges and rent levels which are commensurate with the financial capabilities of Oregon households.” The Jackson County cities listed above have been conducting reviews of their plans, and all have found significant shortages of housing types that are affordable for many residents.

That comes as no surprise to anyone who has read the paper or tried to rent a home recently. Currently one in every three renters in Jackson County — and three-quarters of low-income renters — are paying more than 50 percent of their income in rent, leaving little for other necessities like food, transportation and health care. Housing vouchers are going unused for years at a time because affordable units aren’t available. Jackson County has more homeless youth than any other county in the state except Multnomah. Rents have increased 68 percent in the past three years alone.

These problems affect working people across the region. They are tearing our communities apart and will drag our economy down if we don’t find solutions.

Starting with Medford later this month, the cities are about to start a series of public hearings to revise the housing policies in their land-use plans. They will need to show local residents that they are doing everything possible to address the affordable housing crisis within their borders.

In the past, public policy decisions like these have typically been dominated by those with a vested financial interest in the outcome — developers, Realtors and large-scale landlords. Although working families, seniors, veterans, people with disabilities and other residents greatly outnumber the few who speak for the industry, the voices of those whose everyday lives are affected the most are rarely heard.

Fortunately, there are positive, constructive steps that local cities can take, drawing on proven experience in other communities. Here are just a few examples:

    • Encourage the addition of more cottage-type housing in residential zones.
    • Allow developers to build additional homes — such as going from a duplex to a triplex, or allowing more cottages in a cottage cluster — if some of them are affordable.
    • Reduce or waive fees for affordable housing projects.
    • Make it easier for nonprofit affordable housing organizations to help fill the need.
    • Enact a small construction excise tax to raise funds to support creation of more housing options.
    • Require that in any development above a certain number of homes or apartments, a certain percentage be affordable.

The problem is not a lack of solutions. What is needed is for city councils to act in the broader public interest.The rental market must be stabilized to prevent a further increase in homelessness and ensure that households have enough money left over for basics. The Legislature will likely consider new tools for short- and mid-term stabilization. For the long term, increasing the supply of affordable rental housing is critical. If we don’t do that, we’ll still be having this discussion 20 years from now.

The hearings that are coming up in local cities are our best chance to get started down that path — but it is critical that the voices of those most affected by these decision are heard. We strongly encourage residents to look out for and participate in their own cities — starting with Medford on Thursday, Feb. 15, at the regularly scheduled City Council meeting.

A recent Mail Tribune guest opinion representing the local Realtors association said that a “progressive approach would not only work, but would be supported by many.” The next few months will tell whether Realtors, developers and landlords are ready to work with local communities to, as that column said, “be part of the solution and not the problem.”

The first step is for decision-makers to hear from everyone who is affected.

— Michelle Glass is director of the Rogue Action Center. Greg Holmes is the Southern Oregon planning advocate for 1000 Friends of Oregon.

Action for Affordable Housing

As described in this guest opinion that the Rogue Action Center and 1000 Friends of Oregon published in the Mail Tribune, the cities of Medford, Phoenix, Eagle Point, Central Point and Talent are going through a process that could lead to expanding their boundaries to include land that would be profitable for developers to build on.

Before expanding, cities must show that they are meeting their obligation under state law to ensure that they have housing that is affordable for local residents.

Statewide Land Use Goal 10 Requires every city and town to ensure it has enough land zoned to meet the residential needs of its current and future residents. It also requires that the zoning allow a diversity of housing types to support affordability and meet the needs of people.

Here are a few examples of actions our elected city officials can take to meet the needs of our community and their obligations under state law:

  • Create a construction excise tax: This would be a small tax on all construction in the city. The money would be used to attract additional state and federal funding, which would all be used to help create more affordable housing in the city. For more information on construction excise taxes and how they are working in other cities in Oregon, click here.
  • Create a systems development charge deferral program: Developers pay fees to the city to help offset the costs that new development brings—such as new streets, water and sewer pipes, parks, etc. Right now developers pay those fees before they begin construction. This would allow them to pay when construction is complete and they sell the homes. The total amount collected by the city would be the same, but developers would save money (and so would consumers) because they did not have to finance those costs up front.
  • Establish a permanent housing advisory committee: This group would be responsible for advising city council on housing policies, and would help develop programs to spend the excise tax revenues and review proposals to recommend which projects got funding.
  • Fix city policies that restrict housing choices: The city just got a grant from the state to revise its regulations to make building different types of housing easier. Encourage this activity. Suggest specific fixes, such as: allowing duplexes in single-family zones, allowing more mixed-use development in commercial areas, allowing developers to build more homes and apartments in a development if some of them are affordable, allowing “cottage cluster” developments and tiny houses, etc.
  • Create economic incentives to encourage more variety in housing: New programs that encouraged mixed-use development, construction of more apartments or of “missing middle” housing, incentives for homeowners to add accessory dwelling units. Funds from the construction excise tax could pay for these programs.

Candidate Commitments on Community Issues

Nonpartisan Questions for Oregon Senate District 3 Candidates from the Rogue Action Center

Oregon Senate District 3 voters deserve specific commitments from candidates, regardless of party, instead of “trust me” rhetoric that too often results in policies that benefit only corporate special interests and the wealthiest elites.

The following questions have been sent to all candidates who have filed for Senate District 3, as well as the incumbent. Candidates have until midnight on Wednesday January 31st to reply. We will be sharing all responses here.

Read More

Exciting Announcement

Our community has decided to take a big step forward by taking the organizing and training work of the Rogue Action Center to a new level.

For many years, we have needed a hub for organizing in Southern Oregon for economic, social, racial, and climate justice that is locally run based on the realities of our region, and not just an arm of a Portland-based organization.

Now, we have one – the Rogue Action Center, also known as “the RAC.

Read More

Talking With a Reporter

This tip sheet is for anyone who is getting ready to talk with a reporter.

Talking with a reporter is your chance to help the public see why they should support us — to help them see that we are not just fighting for ourselves but fighting for them.

Follow these three easy steps: Read More

Writing Sound Bites

This tip sheet gives advice on preparing effective sound bites.

 

Read More

Preparing a Media Spokesperson

This tip sheet is for someone who has to prepare another person to speak to the media, especially if the spokesperson is not used to speaking to reporters.

Read More

Organizing Media Events

This tip sheet is about how to prepare for running an effective media event.

Read More

Writing Guest Opinions

This tip sheet provides advice for preparing a guest opinion to submit to a newspaper or blog. Read More