Biden appoints Oregon housing director Margaret Salazar to oversee HUD western region

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Director of Oregon Housing and Community Services Margaret Salazar speaks during a celebration of Operation Welcome Home outside a new veterans housing complex in Independence, Oregon, on Wednesday, July 31, 2019.
Director of Oregon Housing and Community Services Margaret Salazar speaks during a celebration of Operation Welcome Home outside a new veterans housing complex in Independence, Oregon, on Wednesday, July 31, 2019.

President Joe Biden has appointed Oregon Housing and Community Services director Margaret Salazar to serve as the Housing and Urban Development regional administrator for Region 10, which includes Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

She had been director of the state agency since 2016.

Salazar said she was a volunteer on the Biden campaign. In November 2020, Salazar took an unpaid leave of absence to work on the transition team for the Biden-Harris administration.

“I was thrilled to be able to kind of bring the perspective that we have around not only our critical rate of homelessness and the tragedy that is for families, but also the challenges of rural Oregon and rural communities that often get totally overlooked in national policy conversations,” Salazar said.

Waiting for help: Thousands in need of rental help are waiting for lawmakers to act

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown pointed to Salazar as one of the state's most effective leaders in state government.

“With her extensive leadership and expertise in housing issues at the local, statewide and national levels, I know she is the right person for this job, where she can use her talents to address the unprecedented housing challenges our nation faces, while also representing Oregon’s voice and unique needs at the federal level," Brown said in a statement.

The Oregon department has had challenges in administering its emergency rental assistance program since it launched in May 2021, with tens of thousands of applicants on the cusp of eviction frustrated by long delays in getting payments.

Lawmakers met in special session Dec. 13 to approve $100 million to restart the emergency rental assistance program, which had run out of money Dec. 1. Due to the department's backlog in approving rental assistance applications and getting the money out to recipients, the Legislature also extended protections that prevent landlords from evicting someone while they wait for the assistance funds.

Before and during the session, legislators including Rep. Christine Drazan, Republican leader in the House of Representatives, called for Salazar to resign as director of the department — or for Brown to fire her.

Salazar heard the refrain.

“This is an unfortunate part of these jobs,” Salazar said. “I will continue dedicating my career to helping people and people of this state find safe and stable housing."

Bill Poehler covers Marion County for the Statesman Journal. Contact him at bpoehler@statesmanjournal.com or on Twitter.com @bpoehler.

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This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Biden appoints Oregon housing director to oversee HUD western region

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