PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Gov. Kate Brown, in her final year in office, outlined her agenda and priorities for 2022 in her State of the State address Thursday.

Brown reflected on the past seven years and crises from both the past and present, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires and a growing political divide, calling them “some of the most challenging times in our state’s history.”

“Despite these difficult times, Oregon has also fundamentally changed for the better,” Brown said.

Brown cited low unemployment rates and rising family incomes as evidence that the Oregon economy is “stronger than it was before the pandemic.”

She touted Oregon’s response to the pandemic, pointing to the five special sessions she called from the Oregon Legislature and comparing the state’s cases with others across the country.

“We remain third in the nation for lowest cumulative case counts,” Brown said. “If our response to
COVID matched that of the average state, more than 4,000 Oregonians wouldn’t be with
us today.”

A large portion of Brown’s speech focused on budget priorities, like directing $400 million for affordable housing and a $200 million investment in job training for those in health care, tech and manufacturing and construction.

Brown addressed the widespread impact of the rise in housing costs across the state.

“You can see the housing crisis everywhere in Oregon — from Coos Bay to Ontario and back
again,” she said.

“With supply not keeping up with demand, the home-buying market has become a feeding frenzy of cash offers and bidding wars well above asking price,” Brown added. “Would-be first-time homeowners are priced out of homeownership, putting more pressure on rentals. In downtown Portland, million-dollar condos rise on the same city blocks where people huddle over open fires to stay warm.”

Brown defended her record on housing, citing the state’s investments in rental assistance and affordable housing over her past two terms.

“We have invested more in affordable housing, homelessness prevention, and rental assistance in my tenure as Governor than any other administration,” she said. “With our local partners, we paid out more than $400 million in rental assistance last year alone to keep more than 36,000 families housed.”

On Jan. 26, the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program announced it would reopen for a limited time.

The state of Oregon said it plans to keep the rental assistance application portal open for three to five weeks depending on available funding.

Oregon Housing and Community Services estimated it will have enough money to pay between 6,700 and 9,300 additional applications. The office said it had more than 11,000 applications that still needed to be processed.

OHCS said there were more than 14,000 eligible applications received before they paused the last round of assistance on Dec. 1 and they plan to prioritize those applications.

“I will level with you — housing affordability and homelessness are not issues we can solve
overnight,” Brown said in the speech.

The Oregon legislature began its 35-day session in Salem on Tuesday and expects to tackle big issues such as tax cuts and the biennium budget along with individual bills such as royalties for student-athletes, whether residents can pump their own gas and addressing illegal marijuana operations.

In recent weeks, Brown extended the COVID state of emergency and deployed the National Guard to 40 hospitals across the state dealing with the surge in omicron cases. She also appointed a new judge to the Oregon Supreme Court.

Watch the press conference below.

Brown became Oregon’s governor when John Kitzhaber resigned February 18, 2015. She won a special election in November 2016 and won re-election in November 2018. Her current term ends January 9, 2023.