Portland's $258 Million Affordable Housing Bond is Cruising to Victory

Marijuana tax—worth $3 million a year—also appears to have passed.

For the first time, Portland voters appears to have passed a bond to fund the building of publicly owned housing, affordable to the lowest-income city residents.

Shortly after polls closed at 8 pm, Measure 26-179 showed overwhelming support, with 61 percent in favor and 38 percent opposed.

The $258.4 million measure faced no organized opposition, and had widespread backing across Portland's political spectrum—from the powerful and relatively conservative Portland Business Alliance to homeless advocates, such as the social service advocacy organization JOIN and the homeless newspaper Street Roots.

"We're ecstatic," says Israel Bayer of Street Roots. "Portlanders delivered a responding yes for affordable homes."

Bayer noted the Welcome Home Coalition plans to work to bring similar measures to other jurisdictions.

"We did it," says Jes Larson, director of the Welcome Home Coalition. "This is amazing. This so fantastic. We're getting ready to celebrate."

The Portland Housing Bureau, which will build and own the new housing, has a mixed record on managing public dollars. It has invested in projects that cost double or triple the projects built by unsubsidized developers.

As Portland has faced steadily climbing rents, and as a sizable homeless population camp out on city streets, elected officials championed the idea that Portland needed to build its own public housing for those who can't afford this city.

For the average Portland home—which for tax purposes is valued at roughly $178,000—the tax will run $75 a year over 20 years.

The new housing bond will go toward 1,300 units of housing over the next 20 years, meaning the cost is $200,000 per unit. Many of these homes would go to people making less than 30 percent of area median income.

There's currently a 24,000-unit shortfall in affordable homes, according to city officials.

The bond's supporters raised half a million dollars in campaign donations to pass the measure.

Also on the city ballot is a 3 percent marijuana tax, which would generate $3 million a year, according to current estimates.

The tax appears also assured of victory, with 69 percent for it and 30 percent against it.

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