Commentary, Oregon News

Springfield Board of Directors newsletter takes aim at Secretary of State’s mortgage interest deduction audit

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Article by CEO Jenny Pakula

The Secretary of State’s office released an audit on the Mortgage Interest Deduction on March 16, 2022. We reviewed the audit and have serious concerns that the state is drawing conclusions that it does not have the data to support.

The report tries to frame the Mortgage Interest Deduction as an equity issue, arguing that it benefits wealthier and whiter Oregonians. However, the state does not have any data on the race or ethnicity of anyone taking the Mortgage Interest Deduction, as the report admits. And we know from looking across the U.S. that of the top ten states with the highest rates of homeownership for Black Americans, eight have the Mortgage Interest Deduction. They also have something else in common: lower housing costs.

The audit is correct in that Oregon has the ninth lowest homeownership rate in the country and a chronic housing supply shortage, which is driving up the cost of housing for not only low-income Oregonians, but those earning even well above the median family income. It is also true that our communities of color are being disproportionately left out of the dream of homeownership.

What is not true, is that the Mortgage Interest Deduction is the cause of these issues. In reality, underproduction of housing supply, historically high land prices from our constrained land use system, record inflation, and new expensive regulations are all driving up the cost of housing. All these issues would still exist even if the MID was eliminated today.

The attack on the Mortgage Interest Deduction is a classic display of blame shifting by those who do not want to acknowledge the true systemic causes of our affordable housing crisis.

Oregon REALTORS® is proud of our work to advance policies that help all Oregonians have access to housing, including supporting policies to end racial disparities in homeownership.  In fact, we supported a bill last session (SB 1537) that required the state to analyze the impacts to historically disadvantaged communities before passing laws and rules that impact the cost of housing—but it was rejected by leaders in the legislature.

Oregonians are experiencing record inflation, historically high housing costs, rising interest rates and $5 per gallon gas while the state is awash in revenue. Getting rid of a politically popular tax deduction that makes homeownership more affordable is the last thing we should be considering right now.

We invite the authors of this report and all Oregon policymakers to join us in advancing real, proven solutions rather than further dividing the people of our state for political gain with an unnecessary, harmful, zero-sum tax attack on the on one of the few tax benefits available to homeowners in Oregon. We will continue fighting to preserve and expand financial tools that make homeownership more affordable, and policies that lower the cost of housing.

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