Bravo to Gov. Tina Kotek for declaring a housing and homeless state of emergency on her first day in office. I’m thrilled to watch local officials from around the state answer her call and begin to take action in a coordinated effort. We desperately need to build thousands of new housing units and stop the cascade of marginalized renters falling into homelessness.
Not everyone shares that spirit of rolling up their sleeves and tackling this difficult issue head-on. Eugene City Manager Sarah Medary has taken a contrary approach to Kotek’s emergency declaration. Medary decided to cancel an upcoming hearing on Eugene’s proposed homeless prevention measure, Displacement Prevention Assistance (DPA), without a vote of the City Council. DPA is an upstream solution that has minimal cost to the city and helps residents move when they are evicted for a no-fault landlord reason or are hit with an unaffordable rent increase and have to vacate their unit. The city is in its third calendar year of discussions for this important measure, and it’s already passed numerous procedural hurdles and has a broad community coalition behind it.
We must ask ourselves if this is an acceptable way for Eugene’s city manager to respond to a state of emergency. Would they delay important policy solutions if we were facing a flood, fire or severe weather event?
This sequence of events highlights how unwilling and incapable our city is to respond to the housing crisis.
Kevin C. Cronin