A ready-made solution for protecting Oregon’s homeless children

Chuck Sheketoff

It’s a stain on the conscience of Oregon.

Last year, 21,000 school children in Oregon experienced homelessness. The same fate befell another 1,900 pre-school kids. Oregon had more homeless students than during the depths of the Great Recession.

Homelessness inflicts tremendous suffering and long-term harm on children. Homeless children are more likely to go hungry, to get sick, and to suffer from anxiety and depression. They are at greater risk from violence or of witnessing violence. They are more likely to miss school days and drop out of school. Robbed of a normal childhood, these children will face many obstacles as adults.

This tragedy, however, need not continue. Oregon has at its disposal a ready-made solution.

House Bill 2006 would provide enough resources to help stabilize 21,750 families in need of emergency and transitional shelter, transitional housing, and rapid re-housing assistance.

And that’s just for starters. Over the next two years, the bill could also provide enough resources to help some 5,000 low- and moderate-income families achieve the dream of homeownership. And it could help fund the construction of 1,400 new affordable housing rental units.

In short, HB 2006 represents a real game-changer in terms of how Oregon confronts the statewide housing crisis.

How would all of these investments be paid for? They would be paid for in the fairest way possible: by reforming Oregon’s biggest housing subsidy — the ineffective and inequitable mortgage interest deduction. This housing subsidy mainly benefits well-off homeowners, those who do not need help from taxpayers to put or keep a roof over their heads. HB 2006 would keep in place the subsidy for the vast majority of homeowners who currently take the deduction, but eliminate the benefits for those at the top and those using the subsidy on vacation homes.

This common-sense reform of Oregon’s biggest housing subsidy would yield sufficient revenue savings that could be used to protect Oregon’s homeless children and others caught in the housing crisis.

The reforms from HB 2006 are not just common-sense. They are a moral imperative.

Oregon Center for Public PolicyChuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at www.ocpp.org.

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