In November 2021, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it was awarding Oregon $422 million in
Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds for recovery efforts in response to the 2020 Labor Day Fires. Administered by Oregon Housing and Community Services, this money will pay for new programs to help individuals, households, and communities continue to recover. This effort, which is called "ReOregon," will provide new permanent housing in the areas most impacted by the fires.
Assistance available now for wildfire recovery
Oregon Housing and Community Services submitted an Action Plan for ReOregon to HUD on June 8. The Action Plan describes how the state will spend the $422 million of federal funding to support recovery from the 2020 Labor Day Fires in Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, and Marion counties. The goal of the program is that all fire-impacted individuals and households have equitable access to the resources necessary to be housed safely, sustainably, permanently, affordably and in their housing of choice.
The plan was drafted with an explicit concern for—and implementation will be guided by—the particular needs of the many members of the Latino/a/x community of Jackson County who have suffered many of the greatest impacts of this disaster and face particular hurdles in recovery. There are no citizenship or residency requirements and OHCS will seek opportunities to partner with (and fund) culturally specific, community-based organizations to support survivors through application and recovery processes.
The core elements of the plan, which were refined through extensive public engagement in fire-impacted areas in May 2022, are:
- A housing replacement program for homeowners who lost homes to the fires.
- A new homeownership program for fire survivors who were renters and displaced by the fires.
- A fund to support local priority projects to build new infrastructure, carry out mitigation activities to prepare for future disasters, or support economic revitalization.
Other ReOregon programs include intermediate housing assistance, housing recovery services, and recovery planning. No less than 15% of program funds must be spent on mitigation activities, such as building homes that are resistant to fire or other natural disasters.
The Oregon Housing Stability Council approved the Action Plan on June 3, 2022. OHCS expects HUD to approve the plan in 60 to 90 days. The federal government appropriated funds to Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) in Fall 2021. The rules establishing the requirements to receive funding were not published until February 2022. OHCS will implement programs as soon as possible but will likely not be ready to accept and approve formal applications until the first half of 2023.
Housing Replacement and New Homeownership
The housing replacement program will provide new homes or help survivors complete rebuilding. At this time, the program does not include any benefits for survivors who have completed their reconstruction. If sufficient funds are available, a reimbursement program could be added in a future plan amendment.
The new homeownership program will fund the development of affordable opportunities for former renters to buy a home. OHCS will partner with non-profit developers, and others, to build new housing. When developing new “parks,” the program will focus on quality construction (ideally, modular units as opposed to manufactured homes) and cooperative or other land ownership models that ensure long-term affordable space rents.
Both housing programs will be opened first to applications for low- and moderate-income fire survivors (defined as those whose income is no more than 80% of area median income). ReOregon as a whole must devote at least 70 percent of program funds to benefit low- and moderate-income survivors. OHCS is requesting that HUD allow the income maximum to be based on statewide median income, rather than county median income, which would allow programs to serve more survivors who are struggling with the cost to rebuild but may not qualify at the lower amount.
Survivor Support Services
The Action Plan has funds for services such as rent support, housing navigation, legal assistance, and case management. These services are currently available, but the funding for these activities is likely to expire before the need is completely met.
Public Infrastructure and Economic Revitalization (PIER)
OHCS, with input from the impacted counties, will sub-allocate PIER funding by county. Local governments and other key recovery stakeholders (such as the housing authorities and economic development districts) will be asked to select and define the priority projects to receive these funds.
A draft plan was developed with extensive public involvement. Prior to publishing a draft on May 2, OHCS held 25 meetings with local governments, organizations working on fire recovery, and fire survivor focus groups. An online survey received over 300 responses. The information gathered in this early phase greatly informed the draft.
After the draft was published, a 30-day formal public comment period began. During that time, OHCS held five in-person
public hearings in fire-impacted areas around the state (including a Spanish-language event in Jackson County). OHCS received 170 formal comments through the public hearings, via e-mail, and online. The agency made several major changes to the plan in response to these comments, including the addition of economic revitalization and the decision to pursue the use of the statewide income standards for determining low- and moderate-income.
Any future substantial amendments to the Action Plan would require another formal public comment period. OHCS is also committed to involving local partners working with fire survivors in the process of program design, which is one of the primary next phases of work in the development of ReOregon.
This website will contain information about programs as it becomes available.