Following up on a big year for housing advocacy, Meyer dedicates $1 million to housing advocacy  

By Michael Parkhurst, Meyer Memorial Trust

When it comes to affordable housing issues, the legislative session that just wrapped up in Salem was one of the most momentous ever.  Advocates won major victories around additional state funding, tenant protections, preservation, attention to manufactured housing, and more flexible zoning that will help create more housing choice in desirable neighborhoods across the state.  So much important work happened we can barely keep track of it, but our friends at the Oregon Housing Alliance have put together a handy summary ​here​.

It may have been tempting in the past for philanthropic funders to shy away from advocacy, worrying that involvement in “political” work may compromise their moral authority or broader influence in the community somehow.  More and more, we all realize that that kind of hesitation marks a huge missed opportunity.  Meyer’s housing work has become more and more engaged in the last few years with supporting advocacy, simply because that’s the path to real impact on the housing issues facing Oregonians.  If we want to make a real difference in  affordable housing (or the other core issues that define Meyer’s agenda and mission), we need  to help build a broader constituency and inform public discussions and decisions that shape  how cities, counties and the state address those issues. A Meyer grant may be important to the success of a particular housing project or service program supporting housing, but addressing the issues we care about ​at scale ​ requires shifting public investments and public policy.

We can’t take credit for the big wins in Salem (or in City Halls and County offices around the state), but we’re proud to support grassroots advocates, nonprofit leaders, policy experts and journalists who are building momentum, mobilizing people, and crafting effective messaging  around affordable housing.

This Spring, we released our 4th Request for Proposals specifically to support housing  advocacy work, inviting proposals for up to two years, with eligibility broadly defined to include  projects that expand the number and diversity of voices engaged in housing advocacy, and  promote concrete policy and systems changes at both the local and statewide levels.  Reflecting the high level of interest and activity around the state, we received 40 proposals – more than any previous housing-focused RFP!  We are excited to share the results of all this:  eleven new grants totaling $1 million over the next two years:

Better Housing Together​ ​(Lane County) 

$80,000 over two years to enlarge and increase the effectiveness of BHT’s growing cross-sector coalition to advocate for stronger pro-affordable housing policies and resources in Eugene, Springfield and the rest of Lane County.

Farmworker Housing Development Corporation​ ​

Rural Development Housing Advocacy and Communications (Linn, Marion and Polk counties)

$73,448 over two years to educate community leaders about the need for and contribution of affordable housing in the mid-Willamette Valley, building a stronger and more durable constituency to support more affordable housing development.

Friends of Business for a Better Portland​ ​

Activate Business Voices to Support Housing Diversity (Portland Metro)

$76,750 over two years to mobilize and amplify the voices of progressive business owners around affordable housing issues in and around Portland.

Human Solutions​ ​

Affordable Housing Tenant Organizing (in partnership with Northwest Housing Alternatives and REACH CDC) (Portland Metro)

$134,800 over two years to mobilize and support tenants of publicly-subsidized affordable  housing in East Portland to advocate for themselves and for affordable housing broadly.  This  work will complement and support ​a broader statewide effort​ led by the Housing Alliance to  engage affordable housing residents.

Oregon Center for Public Policy​ ​

Equitable reform of Oregon’s biggest housing subsidy  (Statewide)

$150,000 over two years for policy analysis and education concerning the state’s tax deduction  for mortgage interest. OCPP will lead an experienced and savvy coalition of advocates to  continue a focused, strategic plan for reform that could redirect unprecedented resources to  affordable housing in Oregon.


Activating Leaders for Regional Housing Justice (Portland Metro)

$80,000 over two years to build on their momentum mobilizing leaders from low-income  communities of color in East Portland and East Multnomah County, and to expand OPAL’s  housing justice work in Clackamas and Washington Counties.

Q Housing Project ​(Portland Metro) 

$80,000 over two years to engage the LGBTQ+ community in the Metro area around the  specific unmet housing needs and develop a clear vision and action plan around LGBTQ+  friendly housing for youth, elders and families.

Street Roots​ ​

Housing: The Next Generation (Statewide)

$80,000 over two years for an in-depth series of reporting showing the daunting housing  situations confronting younger people in Oregon, with a strong equity lens specifically calling  attention to homeless youth, Native American youth, youth aging out of foster care, and youth  trapped in cycles of generational poverty.

Unite Oregon​

(in partnership with Community Housing Fund and HomePlate Youth Services):  Washington County Equitable Housing Coalition (Washington county)

$85,000 over two years to support a coalition including HomePlate Youth Services (HPYS) and  Community Housing Fund (CHF) to advance an equitable housing agenda that amplifies and  incorporates the voices of immigrants, refugees, communities of color and youth into key  housing policy discussions taking place over the next two years in Washington County.

Urban League of Portland​ ​

Erasing Red Lines (Statewide)

$80,000 over two years to bring tenant screening policy into compliance with Fair Housing law,  and increase community support for reducing discriminatory barriers to African Americans and  other people of color seeking housing, largely through educating landlords and tenants about  the disproportionate impact of common tenant screening approaches and how those  perpetuate segregation and exclusion of Black Oregonians.

Welcome Home Coalition​ ​

Housing First Public Advocacy (Portland Metro)

$80,000 over two years to inform and influence the region’s push to reduce homelessness and expand the availability of permanent supportive housing (PSH), by centering the experience of people with lived experience in PSH.

We hope you’re as excited about this list as we are!  And as impressive as that list is, it doesn’t show ongoing Meyer support for other key partners like the Oregon Housing Alliance, Community Alliance of Tenants​, and ​Housing Oregon​.

Hopefully too this reassures anyone who wondered about how ​the transition that essentially folds Meyer’s recent Affordable Housing Initiative into our broader Housing Opportunities portfolio​ would affect Meyer’s commitment to support systems-level change and grassroots mobilization around housing issues.  We see housing advocacy as a high priority, and already look forward to the next million dollars worth of grants.