Oregon’s 2022 short legislative session ended on Friday, March 4, lasting just a few weeks. We want to highlight and celebrate the passage of some important new legislation in the land use, affordable housing, and environmental sustainability realms:
Providing Funding for the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program: Grants to Keep Working Farms and Ranches in Sustainable Production
The Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program, established in 2017 but previously unfunded, was finally funded with $5 million. OAHP will provide grants to farmers and ranchers for working land easements, succession planning, technical assistance, and conservation management plans. The program aims to keep working farms and ranches in production while encouraging sustainable and environmentally beneficial practices on agricultural lands. The funding for OAHP also opens up accessibility to federal funds through USDA’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. The grants will be administered by Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, but OWEB is not yet soliciting applications.
Expanding Access to Prefabricated and Manufactured Homes as Affordable Housing Options and to Respond to Natural Disasters (HB 4064)
HB 4064 makes it easier for prefabricated and manufactured homes to provide needed housing in the state. The bill requires local governments to allow manufactured and prefabricated homes to be sited in areas zoned residential within urban growth boundaries (UGBs). Local governments are largely prohibited from applying unique standards for manufactured and prefabricated homes that would make it more difficult to site this type of housing. The bill also expands access to the manufactured dwelling replacement program passed in 2021, which provides loans to residents whose manufactured home was destroyed by a natural disaster. With an intense housing crisis in Southern Oregon and nearly 2,500 manufactured homes or RVs destroyed in the Almeda Fire, this bill should be a direct benefit to those in need of housing in our region.
Strengthening Consideration of Environmental Justice in State Actions Through the Environmental Justice Council (HB 4077)
The Environmental Justice Council (EJC), previously the Environmental Justice Task Force formed in 2007, studies and advises natural resource agencies on environmental justice issues. Environmental justice is defined as “the equal protection from environmental and health risks, fair treatment, and meaningful involvement in decision making of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, immigration status, income, or other identities with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies that affect the environment in which people live, work, learn, and practice spirituality and culture.” The bill requires the EJC to develop an environmental justice mapping tool that will be used to evaluate how communities across the state are disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards such as air pollution.
$400 Million Allocated to Increase Affordable Housing Development and Address Houselessness
A $400 million investment package was passed with a variety of programs addressing affordable housing and related issues. Among other programs, the package includes $55 million to invest in building new affordable homes, $50 million to support affordable housing construction projects struggling with market and supply chain disruptions, $35 million to help acquire manufactured housing parks and keep them affordable, and $10 million to support land acquisition for affordable housing projects. This funding is an important step in addressing the acute housing crisis faced in the Rogue Valley and all across Oregon.
Farmworkers Now Eligible for Overtime Pay (HB 4002)
After extensive public involvement and advocacy, the legislature approved extending overtime pay to farmworkers in Oregon. Agricultural workers have historically been excluded from overtime pay protections provided in many other industries, and this bill works to fix that injustice by extending overtime pay to farmworkers after 40 hours per week. Our farmworkers provide vital services for our communities in increasingly challenging conditions and will now be extended the same respect given to other workers in the state.