Mayor Ted Wheeler Is Halting the Spending of Portland's Housing Bond

In first major act as housing commissioner, Wheeler seeks to set "priorities and goals" before further purchases.

(Joe Riedl)

Mayor Ted Wheeler has ordered the Portland Housing Bureau to stop making purchases with the $258 million housing bond approved by voters in November.

In his first major act as the city's housing commissioner, Wheeler says he plans to develop a clear strategy for investments before spending more of the bond money.

"I have directed the Portland Housing Bureau to suspend contractual negotiations that use funds associated with the housing bond until we have a community agreement in place," Wheeler says in a statement. "I expect that community agreement to clarify the goals and priorities for use of these funds."

Wheeler chose to oversee the Housing Bureau after campaigning on a pledge to address homelessness and build affordable housing more cheaply.

WW reported in September that the Housing Bureau has for a decade paid little attention to delivering the most housing for the money spent. Wheeler pledged to do better with the bond.

The Portland Housing Bureau faced criticisms over its first purchase with the housing bond money.

Last month, City Council approved the spending of $51 million toward the purchase and repair of the Ellington Apartments—$37 million of it is to be funded with bond money.  Former Portland Housing Bureau Director Margaret Van Vliet objected to the purchase, saying that previous owners had failed to maintain the property after receiving public funding to build it.

Spokesman Michael Cox says the decision was not a referendum on the recent purchase agreement.  That sale will continue.

Cox says Wheeler is working to appoint a bond oversight committee chair and gather "the stakeholders" to set priorities and goals.

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