The staff of regional government Metro will today recommend sending voters a smaller-than-expected measure to fund homeless services: $175 million a year.
That's 30 percent less than the $250 million a year that advocates have been seeking.
Today is the first time the smaller figure has been mentioned, but Metro defended the proposal.
"This will be the largest single investment in addressing homelessness in the history of our state," says Metro spokesman Nick Christensen. "This is a huge step forward, but there's more work to do—work that the counties and the state can pick up."
Metro staff's recommendation will be a for a marginal tax on high-income households making $250,000 or more (and individuals making more than $125,000)—specifically a 1 percent tax on any income above those thresholds.
Metro Council is expected to hold a work session on the issue today and to refer a measure by Thursday.
But advocates appeared surprised by news of the shrinking size.
Katrina Holland, executive director of the homeless services nonprofit JOIN and the chair of the Here Together advisory committee, said Metro Council president Lynn Peterson "personally" had pledged to refer a ballot measure of at least $250 million.
"This proposal will be seen as a betrayal," Holland says. She added that Metro may have been motivated to reduce the size of the measure in order to refer it to voters quickly—and avoid having it on the same ballot as a transportation funding measure.
"It's hard to see this proposal as anything other than an attempt to derail our efforts," she says. "I think voters deserve better. They don't deserve to be asked whether they care more about the streets than the people who live on them."
Metro's Christensen defended the recommendation.
"The Metro Council is trying to do what's feasible in the short term because the crisis is so acute," he says. "This proposal would offer services to every person who is currently experiencing chronic homelessness in the region, and as many as 10,000 households on the brink of homelessness."
But Holland says the group has been working for months to arrive at an agreed-upon number.
"If we do $175 million, we're not addressing the scale of the problem; we're just throwing money at it and hoping that it will be enough to do something," says Holland.
A new report by EcoNorthwest, commissioned by the proponents of the measure, has estimated that at least $369 million a year would be needed to fund services for chronic homelessness and aid those at high risk of becoming homeless in the region, and who have a disability or another factor making them likely to need additional services.
The report also cautions that much more than the region needs to do more on housing than fund homeless service through a measure.
"A comprehensive response to the crisis—an effort to end homelessness—would require a broader set of solutions, including the acceleration of housing construction at all price points, an increased supply of rent-restricted affordable housing, and additional rent subsidies," reads the report.