Interim studies address issues of lack of housing, childcare facilities (Capitol Update)

Legislators continued their work last week with interim studies to look at issues they may want to address when session begins in February. Two important studies that caught my attention have to do with lack: Lack of affordable housing and lack of childcare facilities.   

The first, a study on potential solutions to homelessness requested by Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton, was held in the House General Government Committee. The bottom line, the committee heard, is there is simply not enough affordable, or “workforce” housing to accommodate the need. This is housing for households with 80 to 120 percent of the state’s median income. There is also a shortage of public housing for those with even less or no income.     

The committee heard several recommendations, including identifying the full number of Oklahoma students and families experiencing homelessness; incentivizing landlords to accept housing vouchers; and expanding the number of tax credits to property developers to generate more affordable housing for low-income individuals and families.

The other study, requested by Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, heard about the challenges facing childcare facility operators. The study was heard in the Senate Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee. The committee heard there are 436,212 children under 12 years of age in Oklahoma who need care while their parents work, but there are only 113,360 childcare slots. The lack of enough childcare facilities is a problem that continues to grow as facilities close for various reasons.

The issues causing the childcare facility shortage are a combination of low reimbursement rates, certain regulations and practices by the Department of Human Services, and competition by other entities that do some childcare but have better subsidies and/or less stringent regulations.

Both the homelessness and childcare challenges are the kinds of problems that deserve legislators’ attention and that can be greatly improved by wise policies and allocation of public resources. Both issues deal with people — children and the homeless — who are in vulnerable situations. In the long run, they affect everyone when left unaddressed. Kudos to the legislators who seek to elevate these needs and who are willing to work for solutions.  


Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

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