Portland-Area Officials Seek to Fill a $3.25 Million Gap in the Metro Housing Bond

That's the amount needed to serve the lowest income Multnomah County residents.

A crane operator in Portland. (Rosie Struve)

A $653 million Metro housing bond cruised to victory in November, and faced flimsy opposition.

The bond's few foes lost badly in the election, and their key spokesman, Andy Duyck, former chairman of the Washington County Commission, made a habit of repeating racially charged remarks.

But Duyck did have one substantive critique of the bond: It wasn't going to solve homelessness.

In fact, the units of housing that are supposed to go to the lowest-income  residents (1,600 of the 3,900 units) weren't actually fully funded in the bond.

"They could get the money to build all these units, but then have no way to fund folks to move into them or maintain them," said Joe Keizur, a former developer and former Hillsboro City Council President, in response to a question from WW in June. "I hate to say it but it reminds me of the Wapato Jail fiasco.  They should have worked with the feds and the counties to find the money to support these units first."

That argument didn't prevail. But now city, county and Metro officials are looking for ways to fill the gap that was baked into the Metro bond—much as it was in the Portland housing bond, two years prior.

In Clackamas and Washington counties, similar funding gaps will be met with help from federal housing vouchers. But Portland has used all its vouchers to fill the gaps in the the Portland housing bond.

Metro officials say they knew they would need more money to use the bond to help the most vulnerable people in Portland.

There's a funding gap of $3.25 million to cover 475 units for serving the lowest income bracket in Multnomah County: a family of four making less than $24,420 a year or an individual making less than $17,100.

That funding gap is one reason there's pressure on the city, the county and Metro to reach a deal on the Visitor Facilities Intergovernmental Agreement, which sets up how the three governments will spend hotel and rental car taxes collected across the county.

"We were certainly cognizant of the need to bring additional resources to bear to meet the commitments of the bond," says Metro government affairs and policy development director Andy Shaw.

The new agreement—which Portland City Council discussed Wednesday—would provide $5.25 million annually for the Joint Office on Homeless Services, which may go to filling the gap.

Related: Portland Is Poised to Spend Tourist Dollars to House the Homeless

There were questions last week about whether Multnomah County would agree to the deal that the county and metro had agreed to.

Related: Fight Between County and City Endangers Deal for $5.25 Million a Year in Funds for Services for Homeless

But those rifts appear healed: At the City Council hearing yesterday, Mayor Ted Ted Wheeler announced a tentative agreement with the county.

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