Almost as soon as Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler proposed a tax on Airbnb and other short-term rental brokers, a debate over how to use the money started brewing in City Hall.

City Commissioner Nick Fish has been leading an effort with, along with Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, to push for the kind of supportive housing that would aid formerly homeless people in staying off the streets.

WW first reported the tax proposal yesterday, and described how Wheeler wants to use the money: to boost home ownership for families displaced from North and Northeast Portland.

Fish, who is co-sponsoring the tax resolution with the mayor, instead wants to consider using the money—as much as $1.28 million a year—to fund services: the mental health, addiction and other social services that accompany housing to help people stay in affordable homes.

“Commissioner Fish has always been interested in this revenue as a source of funds for supportive housing,” says Fish’s chief of staff, Sonia Schmanski.
“That housing, a proven tool to cost-effectively help our most vulnerable neighbors stabilize, requires both service money and ongoing rent subsidies,” Schmanski adds. “Commissioner Fish thinks we should explore all of the options on the table for this new revenue, and consider our community’s greatest needs, before we earmark it for a specific use.”

In announcing the proposal, Wheeler's office said it supports the funding being used for home ownership programs.

"We're always open to council-level discussion about the universe of housing challenges facing the city," says Wheeler's spokesman Michael Cox.

Meanwhile, the mayor's office has revised its projections downward for how much money the proposed tax would raise.

Revenue Division projections show a $4 per room per night tax on Airbnb and other companies that book rooms in Portland are expected to yield $1.1 to $1.28 million a year, not the $1.25 million to $2.5 million the mayor's office initially cited.

Those initial figures reflected ongoing discussions about the rate of the taxes but not a $4 per room charge, the mayor's office says.

The tax is expected to go before the City Council next month.