In October 2015 the City of Portland declared a state of emergency on housing. Portland is not alone, as Los Angeles, Seattle, and the state of Hawaii have also declared states of emergencies in response to shifts in the housing market and rising homelessness in their communities. While Oregon has yet to take such an action statewide, housing and homelessness are raising to become top priorities for voters. Community groups and elected leaders are debating solutions for the difficulties facing our communities, and housing and homelessness are likely to be a focus of the elections this fall. The following data offer a glimpse into where Oregonians stand today on the issues of housing and homelessness in the state, and what they think should be done.
DHM Research conducted an online survey of 687 Oregon residents participating in our DHM Panel. The survey was conducted in May 2016. It asked Oregonians about their opinions on the current state of housing and homelessness across the state, and presented participants with a series of potential policies that could be enacted. Demographic information, including current housing situation, was collected to assess if perceptions of housing and homelessness differed by sub-group categories.
While Oregonians are in overwhelming agreement that the state is currently in a housing crisis, there is less clarity as to preferred solutions, or if solutions are needed. Most view the crisis as a result of increased demand for housing, as opposed to laying blame on government. When it comes to what should be done, Oregonians are split as to who should be tasked with leading the charge on affordable housing or what kinds of solutions they prefer.
- Some 83% agree that Oregon is in the midst of a housing crisis, with 44% strongly agreeing. Strong majorities holding this stance were observed across all demographics, with the lowest agreement rating at 74% for Republicans, as compared to 89% of Democrats.
- When asked what they thought the primary cause of rising housing costs was, 37% of Oregonians said that “the market is responding to an increase in population and desirability” and an additional 26% blamed people with higher incomes moving to Oregon. This suggests that most ascribe the increase to demand-side economics. Almost half (46%) of those outside of the Willamette Valley and Tri-County areas placed blame on those moving to Oregon.
- No consensus emerged as to who Oregonians think should be most responsible for addressing affordable housing needs generally, or which government entity should be responsible for building and administering subsidized housing across the state. Strong pluralities of non-affiliated voters/independents (46%) and Republicans (44%) believe that the market will correct itself, as compared to just 7% of Democrats.
- Investing in community land trusts, changing zoning to allow greater density and mixing of commercial and residential spaces, and relaxing restrictions and fees on ADUs were the preferred policies to improve the supply and affordability of housing.
- In terms of curbing rapidly rising rents, Oregonians responded most positively to rent control (“Improve a lot” or “somewhat”: 72%), inclusionary zoning (67%) and creating a local funding source for rental assistance (63%).
While there is overall consensus that the state is in a housing crisis, perceptions differed based on the degree to which participants were personally affected by the crisis. Renters, those spending more than 30% of their monthly income on housing expenses, and Oregonians making less than $25K annually stood out through the survey.
- Some 22% of Oregonians say that if an emergency were to arise that would cost them $1,000, they would be unable to pay for both the costs incurred by the emergency and their housing costs. Oregonians making less than $25K annually were notably vulnerable, with 63% saying they would not be able to pay for the emergency and their rent or mortgage. Almost half (49%) of cost-burdened Oregonians said they would not be able to pay, as compared to just 9% of those who met HUD’s definition of an affordable housing situation. Four in ten (40%) renters were also at risk, in comparison to just 18% of homeowners.
- Renters (72%) and those with incomes under $25K (69%) were the most likely of all subgroups tested to disagree with the claim that rising housing prices were a sign of economic growth, and good for the state.
- Renters in Oregon were more likely to believe that the number of those experiencing homelessness is directly related to the cost of housing and should be mitigated with housing policies (49%) than to view housing and homelessness as separate issues (47%).
As a whole, Oregonians view housing and homelessness as separate issues. While they recognize that rising housing costs have impacted homelessness and that homelessness has increased over the past few months, they still believe that solutions focusing on short-term shelters, mental health, and addiction services would be most effective.
- An overwhelming majority (68%) believe that the number of people experiencing homelessness in the state has increased in the last six months.
- Some 68% agreed that homelessness should be viewed and treated as its own separate issue, as compared to 28% who believe that homelessness and housing costs are intertwined, and that housing based solutions would be most effective.
- Consistent with this, participants identified unemployment (36%), poverty (32%) and personal choice (32%) as one of the three main causes of homelessness more often than they did so for a lack of affordable housing (22%).
- Participants were asked which of four housing initiatives in response to homelessness would be the most effective policy: 42% said that focusing on emergency shelters and transitional facilities would be the most effective. Policies focusing on providing assistance for those at risk of losing their homes (18%), increasing the stock of affordable housing (17%), or offering rental assistance to those currently experiencing homelessness (13%) were favored by fewer Oregonians.
Please find the complete survey DHM Panel Survey — Housing — annot — May 2016.