The housing crisis in Oregon is one of the most important issues we currently face. The impact of this crisis varies widely between cities. Cities like Portland and Salem are obviously very impacted by the housing crisis. Small rural populations are much less so. However, this stands to change as the state legislature continues to push for a “one size fits all” approach on land use, zoning, and building requirements. Cities like Aumsville are essentially “built out”. With any available land zoned for residential building is currently restricted by one set of policies or another. Yet when looking to expand the urban growth boundary, Aumsville has routinely been rebuffed by how the state calculates expansion by utilizing a system that greatly favors larger cities. Rural towns are regularly negatively impacted by this style of policy making. Legislation must be implemented that allows for greater local control over zoning and requires consideration for the impacts to small rural populations.
While the housing crisis seems to have a simple fix, increase the supply, the application of this fix is a matter of some debate. We need to find innovative ways to increase the supply of homes, not simply throw money at the issue or implement policies that only benefit Portland. Removing regulatory barriers that tie the hands of local government is an important step to opening the market for development. Encouraging innovation in building allowing for builds to be completed faster and at a lower cost is another step that must be taken. Utilizing technology like fully integrated off-site solutions (FIOSS) has been shown to increase productivity by nearly 500% while fully framing a house. Creating programs that incentivizes utilization of new technology may help solve this crisis. Legislation must be introduced that creates incentives for utilization of new technologies that increase productivity, speed up build times, and lower costs.
It is also important to look at contributing factors to this crisis. Oregon has the 13th highest housing wage in the nation, meaning the number of hours and individual must work at minimum wage to afford housing near the top in the nation. Oregon has the 4th highest income tax in the nation, we are one of the most taxes states in the nation despite not having a direct sales tax. We have higher taxation rates in most categories than our neighboring states. Yet despite all of this, median family income in Oregon is in the lower half of the nation. Simply increasing the minimum wage creates a price floor on labor that can negative impact the market. What we should be striving for is letting people keep more of their own money. Lowering the overall tax burden to low-income and middle-income families leaves them with more money in their pocket. Money that can be spent on housing or in other sectors of the economy. Yet we consistently see attempts to increase the overall tax burden with the desire to subsidize costs in one area or another. This practice continues to harm Oregonians. Legislation must be introduces that requires more efficient spending on the part of the State, and returns those cost savings back to low and middle income families.