Oregon's Version of Project Roomkey Offers Housing to Those Who Lost Homes to Wildfires

The program funds the purchase of hotels for housing people experiencing homelessness as housing costs in the state continue to rise.

2 minute read

June 15, 2021, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Motel 6 hotel room in Braintree, Massachusetts in 2015

Antony-22 / Motel room interior

Modeled on California's project of the same name, Oregon's Project Roomkey uses state funds to purchase hotels which are then administered–and funded–by local organizations as housing for people experiencing homelessness. The $65 million initiative, writes Hannah Merzbah in High Country News, is also providing housing for people left unhoused by the fires that ravaged Oregon in September 2020. 

Medford's Redwood Inn is one such hotel. "Rogue Retreat, a nonprofit, and the city of Medford received $2.55 million to buy the 47-unit Redwood Inn, which is prioritizing wildfire survivors. Later, the motel will house members of the general homeless population, who will pay a small rent. But for now, local and state grants, along with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursements, are paying the Redwood Inn’s estimated $91,000 monthly operational cost."

Even before the pandemic, close to a third of Jackson County residents spent more than half their income on housing. "And that was before the September 2020 wildfires exacerbated the county’s already acute affordable housing shortage. Of the nearly 2,500 homes destroyed in Jackson County, 60% were mobile homes." During the pandemic, "rents and home values skyrocketed amid high demand driven by the fires and an influx of out-of-state arrivals during the pandemic." Now, more residents than ever face eviction and homelessness, and those who lost homes in the fires struggle to find affordable housing. For families like the Martins, who lost their home in the fires, Project Roomkey offers a lifeline. "Living in the Redwood Inn rent-free means they can save up for a down payment on a house."

Thursday, June 3, 2021 in High Country News

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