Oregon REALTORS® Conduct ‘People for an Affordable Oregon’ Campaign in Support of Key Housing Legislation

Oregon REALTORS® Conduct ‘People for an Affordable Oregon’ Campaign in Support of Key Housing Legislation

June 2024

In Oregon, there is no shortage of political will to solve the state’s severe housing crisis, but the devil, as they say, is in the details.

Last year, on Governor Tina Kotek’s first full day in office, she signed an executive order to produce 36K units of housing per year for the next ten years and established the Housing Production Advisory Council.  During that same session, the legislature passed a major bill reforming the process for planning for and creating housing across the state.  But a second bill addressing two significant barriers to development – the permit review process and availability of buildable land – failed by a single vote.  In the following short session, early in 2024, Oregon REALTORS® pulled out all the stops to ensure passage of the critical legislation.  Polling services and an Issues Mobilization Grant from the REALTOR® Party helped them to get it done.

Regarding the legislative struggle over permitting and land use, Jeremy Rogers, the REALTORS®’ General Counsel and Director of Government Affairs, explains that the development sought by pro-housing advocates is not entirely at odds with Oregon’s strong environmental values.  “It’s a dichotomy that needs to be understood with more nuance: as REALTORS®, we, too, espouse Oregon’s core environmental values.  We recognize that our open spaces are what make Oregon so attractive to so many, and we’ve advocated for density, supporting bills in favor of duplexes, triplexes, and cottage clusters.  We’re not advocating for sprawl, and housing isn’t the opposite of conservation.”

Through polling that Oregon REALTORS® conducted in January with support from the REALTOR® Party, they learned conclusively that Oregonians, in fact, want even broader options to achieve homeownership.  As Brock Nation, the organization’s Policy Director, observes, the data confirmed what they already knew, anecdotally:  the number one desire of residents seeking housing is a single-family home, big enough to raise a family, rather than small, high-density apartments.  “The intensity was also clear,” he reports: “We knew that home ownership was a high value, but how important was it?  A whopping 74% reported it as a high priority; and in communities of color, the figure was 94%.”

Armed with this data, the REALTORS® secured an Issues Mobilization Grant from the REALTOR® Party and launched ‘People for an Affordable Oregon / YES on SB 1537’, a campaign that targeted several legislative districts where the debate between development and land conservation was especially heated.  “We wanted to make sure these legislators heard that housing was the stated priority of their constituents,” notes Nation.  “The campaign served as the voice for Oregonians who want to own, not rent, and who want three-to-four bedrooms to house their families.”  A digital advertising campaign encouraged visitors to click through a website to contact lawmakers, and a members Call for Action applied additional pressure.

In addition to these components, reports Rogers, “Our contract lobbyist, Jodi Hack, worked night and day with the governor’s office to get the bill in a better place to secure more votes.  We were about to launch the text messaging portion of the campaign when we learned the vote was in the bag.”  The combination of polling, the digital campaign, and the efforts of the dedicated Mrs. Hack effectively conveyed the constituents’ demand for housing production, he says: the bill was passed by an overwhelming majority in both legislative chambers.

“The resounding message is that this has been a great first step, but we’re not done,” states Rogers.  “This last session was a big win, with the bill focused on production; next session, the focus will be on homeownership – another important Oregonian value.”

“Following a major win in 2024, thanks to the efforts of our members, staff, and lobbyists,” noted Jenny Pakula, Chief Executive Officer of Oregon REALTORS®, “we have a coalition in the works for the 2025 session, including private sector and non-profit partners. Oregon REALTORS® will be ready for the coming year and look forward to future advocacy wins.”

To learn more about how Oregon REALTORS® is working to increase the state’s housing production, contact Brock Nation, Policy Director, at bnation@oregonrealtors.org or 503.891.9292; or Jeremy Rogers, General Counsel and Director of Government Affairs, at jrogers@oregonrealtors.org.

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