Housing And Homelessness Weigh On Oregon's Counties

Nov 19, 2019

Dozens of county officials are in Eugene this week, for the annual Association of Oregon Counties conference.  As KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, the keynote issue is housing.

A crowd of county officials and staff gather at the Graduate Hotel in Eugene to hear the keynote speech by Dr. Rachel Solotaroff.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

The AOC membership has said affordability, availability, and lack of variety of housing types are three problems facing counties.

Dr. Rachel Solotaroff, CEO of Central City Concern.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

Keynote Speaker Rachel Solotaroff is CEO of Central City Concern, based in Portland. She discussed how the average rent there increased 52 percent, while median renter income only rose 19 percent.  And that in twenty years, Oregon has lost 73 manufactured home parks.  But she says counties are in a unique place to help.

“For instance, counties often have insight or oversight into physical health, behavioral health, criminal justice, homeless services, which can be inclusive of shelter services and employment services and outreach services," Solotaroff tells KLCC. 

"Counties are able to see things from the point of view of different populations.”

One of Solotaroff's slides outlines how counties can affect issues regarding housing affordability and access.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

Solotaroff says from there, counties can gather stakeholders and partners to tackle housing issues.

Conference attendees say the event is a great way to collaborate on many shared challenges, which includes housing issues.

Heather Buch, Lane County Commissioner for District 5.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

Lane County Commissioner Heather Buch says Solotaroff's keynote speech highlighted what her non-profit in Portland has been doing to transition transients off of the streets and into homes and jobs. Buch says she’s pretty excited for the event, overall.

“It’s so important that we share these ideas with one another, because we need to collaborate as much as possible to find the right solutions for each particular location," says Buch. 

Homeless camp situated near Hwy 99 and Roosevelt, in Eugene.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

"And they’ve got some wonderful ideas that I’d really love to explore here, regarding trying to serve our homelessness problem and our housing and unsheltered needs.”

The City of Eugene – which is encompassed by Lane County – recently ranked first for homelessness out of all U.S. cities, adjusted for population.

Copyright 2019, KLCC.