When I was in college, I woke up after a post-test nap to discover that my kitchen ceiling was raining.
An untimely freeze had created a giant Sheetrock bubble and was leaking water out of every one of my light fixtures. Disoriented by the flashing, short-circuiting lights of my kitchen, I had a decision to make: Do I find a bunch of buckets to catch the water, or do I find the main water shut-off?
The answer should be obvious. When dealing with a crisis, you expend your energy on a root-cause solution. Finding buckets, bowls, and pots would have been a waste of my energy and resources because time is your biggest obstacle during a crisis.
My landlord was also clear-headed about the solution and not only stopped the underlying source of the leak but then made the necessary repairs to ensure it didn’t happen again.
Facing a housing crisis, the Oregon Legislature is spending a lot of time choosing “bucket solutions”—making plans that address symptoms rather than root causes while wasting precious resources like time and tax dollars to do it. Some of these short-term solutions have been increasing regulations around rent increases (SB 611), extending eviction-process timelines (HB 2001), and limiting rental increases after housing is withdrawn from affordable (HB 3042). All aim to prevent housing instability and homelessness—the most damning consequence of our housing crisis. But these bucket solutions won’t solve our housing crisis. Preventing the destructive leaks of unstable housing and homelessness requires having enough units available so that every Oregonian has a choice of where they want to live.
This is the exact environment that Governor Tina Kotek is trying to create. On her first day in office, Kotek established the Oregon Housing Production Advisory Council, which is tasked with identifying recommendations that will help produce 36,000 units annually in Oregon. Kotek is essentially shutting off the valve and replacing the burst pipe of Oregon’s housing crisis—getting to the root of the problem so that future Oregonians don’t face the same problem we’re seeing today.
But Kotek’s strategy takes time, and unlike the burst pipes analogy, the Legislature’s “bucket solutions” don’t just result in extra water on the floor. Instead, these are real Oregonians facing homelessness because of action or inaction. And just as the policies moving through the Legislature may have positive outcomes for some, they also have negative consequences for others.
If our goal is to produce more housing, we need developers willing to invest in our state. Opponents of increased rental regulations argue that these barriers prevent new developments in Oregon, and states that have pursued similar policies have had to scale back regulations to make room for new developments. Ultimately, the only solution that solves any housing crisis is ensuring that there are enough houses to choose from.
So, as we move forward during this legislative session, the Legislature must consider whether to spend its time, energy, and taxpayer dollars on temporary solutions, or to work together to fix the failing infrastructure. Handing out buckets and pans won’t solve the problem.