An initial meeting was held December 18 to solicit input on relaunching Housing Oregon’s Statewide Policy Council with a primary goal on meeting the needs of Housing Oregon’s rural member organizations – perhaps calling it the Rural Policy Council. Representatives from eight CDCs from outside the Portland metro area were invited along with Kim Travis and Angela Parada with Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS).

Participants reflected on the unique challenges of developing affordable housing in rural communities compared to their urban counterparts. The group saw value and a need for a table focused on rural perspectives and issues. At the same time, the group was mindful of not bifurcating rural and urban policy processes recognizing both have more in common than not.

People thought the effort Housing Oregon coordinated this past summer to coalesce input on OHCS’ Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) update was a good first step. Some 30 organizational representatives participated. What’s important, several commented on, is to prioritize member support and engagement in the development of policy and advocacy.

A primary focus should be on implementation – that is working closely with both State and local jurisdictions on development of administrative rules, for example, for implementing new legislation or policies. There was recognition for more closely monitoring and coordinating with the Housing Stability Council, which has been in overdrive working through all the new OHCS funding resources and policy initiatives.

It was a given to coordinate closely with Housing Alliance on advocacy for new legislation as well as issues where workgroups were engaged on implementation of new legislation with OHCS. The group also saw value in being the eyes and ears for the nonprofit CDC community addressing challenges with specific property and development types as well as brainstorming new ideas and best practices for our industry.

Turns out defining exactly what “rural” means is not universally agreed upon as there are multiple government agency definitions. One participant suggested using HUD’s non-entitlement area criteria which is for cities and communities with a population of less than 50,000. Others acknowledged the need to engage larger urban-based CDCs with significant portfolios in rural Oregon. This topic will need further consideration.

The group saw value in engaging with OHCS staff and were encouraged by Kim Travis’ participation in the discussion. OHCS has an interest in such dialogue as rural community engagement is one of six priorities in the State Housing Plan. Whether OHCS should have consistent representation at the table or on an as needed basis with appropriate staff for specific issues was left open for further consideration.

Examples of specific issues for future discussion included scheduling of future NOFAs, MWESB utilization on rural projects, capacity and technical assistance for smaller CDCs, challenges for smaller organizations utilizing 4% LIHTC tax credits, and implementation of HB2001 and HB2003 for middle housing zoning and development of housing needs assessments.

Next steps include working with a small group to develop a proposal for how best to structure the council with a goal of getting the group up and running in the next few months.

If interested in helping relaunch this policy council, contact Brian Hoop at or call 503-475-6056.