Oklahomans will go another year without solutions to housing crisis (2024 Legislative Wrap-up)

Oklahoma does not have enough housing, especially for low-income families. The state has a severe shortage of housing that is affordable for extremely low-income renters and evictions are on the rise. As pandemic-related rental assistance ends, the situation will become more dire.

State legislators introduced several bills this year that would have helped the housing situation. These included extending the eviction timeline, adding much needed protections against landlord retaliation, and forming an affordable housing commission to study Oklahoma’s housing needs and recommend solutions. Unfortunately, legislators chose not to pass those bills. Instead, they passed a harmful and ineffective bill subjecting unhoused Oklahomans with fines or even jail time for sleeping outside. In the 2025 legislative session, legislators must reject any further efforts to punish our unsheltered neighbors. Instead, they should commit to solutions that will expand access to safe, stable housing.

Lawmakers missed opportunities to reduce evictions and ensure tenants have safe housing

Oklahoma will remain one of six states without tenant protections against retaliation by bad actor landlords. House Bill 2109 passed through the House and Senate committees with strong bipartisan and stakeholder support, but it did not get a vote before the legislative deadline. As a result, tenants will continue to risk eviction, homelessness, fees, or harassment if they request repairs to their rental that address health and safety concerns. Oklahoma renters should not face housing instability and homelessness simply for asking for habitable conditions in their rental. Legislators should pass anti-retaliation protections next year to ensure Oklahoma renters are not being taken advantage of by predatory and out-of-state landlords.

In addition, Oklahoma’s short eviction timeline will continue to contribute to housing instability. Renters can go from being late on rent to evicted from their home in under two weeks. Senate Bill 1575 would have extended the eviction timeline, giving tenants more time to make up back rent, make arrangements to attend eviction court, or find alternate housing. The bill passed easily out of its Senate committee, but was not heard by the full Senate. Adding more time to the eviction process would help more tenants stay in their home. It would also make it more likely that landlords receive overdue rent. As eviction filings rise, this simple policy change can help keep Oklahoma renters from falling into homelessness. Legislators should reintroduce similar legislation next year.

Lawmakers missed an opportunity to address Oklahoma’s affordable housing shortage

For every 100 extremely low-income Oklahoma renter households, the state only has 42 rentals that are available and affordable. The state needs another 77,000 rental units for extremely low-income renters (less than around $23,000/yr for a family of four) to have enough housing to go around.



To fill a gap this large will require a statewide, comprehensive plan. HB 2724 would have been a great start by forming an affordable housing commission with a broad group of stakeholders – including legislators, developers, tribal representatives, and nonprofit leaders – to perform a needs assessment and make recommendations to the legislature to increase the state’s affordable housing stock. Affordable housing commissions have been successful in other states like Utah and Montana, and it’s an idea that legislators should revisit next year.

Legislation criminalizing homelessness won’t fix homelessness

Rather than address root causes of homelessness, lawmakers passed legislation criminalizing homelessness. SB 1854, which was signed into law this spring, prohibits unauthorized camping on state-owned land, and violators could face fines or jail time. As advocates told lawmakers, fines and jail won’t fix homelessness, but adding criminal justice involvement will create yet another barrier for unhoused people to find housing. Public housing authorities and private landlords commonly choose not to rent to someone because of a criminal record, limiting already scarce housing options. The number one cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing. If lawmakers want fewer Oklahomans to be homeless, they should start by addressing the root cause and ensure Oklahomans have access to affordable housing.

Lawmakers can do more in 2025 to fix housing

Housing is fundamental to the well-being of our residents and communities. If we want Oklahomans to thrive in their jobs and in school, they need housing. Increasingly, one job isn’t enough to afford housing for many Oklahomans. The hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom rental in Oklahoma is $18/hour. A person working a minimum wage job at $7.25 per hour has to work 79 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom rental home at fair market rent and 99 hours per week for a two-bedroom rental. Two in 5 Oklahomans are unable to afford a stable home working a single full-time job. Addressing the housing crisis will require a multi-faceted approach and long-term solutions. These include investments in affordable housing development, adding anti-retaliation protections, and ensuring evictions are a last resort and not a first solution. All of these options should be back on the table in next year’s legislative session.


Sabine Brown joined the Oklahoma Policy Institute as Housing Senior Policy Analyst in January 2022. She previously worked at OK Policy from January 2018 until September 2020 as the Outreach and Legislative Director, and earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa. Before joining OK Policy she served as the Oklahoma Chapter Leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Sabine also earned a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Health Science from the University of Oklahoma and was a physician assistant prior to discovering advocacy work. She grew up in Germany but has called Oklahoma home since 1998.