City Council Will Vote to Extend Joint Office Agreement With Multnomah County to Allow Further Negotiations, Again

An extension would allow the two governments to try once again to hash out a contract how to best use pooled dollars to decrease homelessness.

Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson. (Motoya Nakamura / Multnomah County)

The Portland City Council will vote soon whether to extend its Joint Office of Homeless Services agreement with Multnomah County for another year amid tense disagreement between the two governments over how best to use the hundreds of millions of homelessness dollars they pool in that office.

That means the city likely won’t pull out its annual share of dollars appropriated to the Joint Office—around $45 million of a $231 million budget this year—despite veiled threats in the past year that it would do so over its frustration with how that office, whose budget is largely controlled by the county chair, used its dollars. (WW has previously reported how the office has chronically underspent its share of dollars from a 2020 Metro homeless services measure expected to bring in $2.5 billion over 10 years, and has used those dollars differently than how it had pledged.)

The county and city first signed a five-year contract for the Joint Office in 2017. If the deal is extended, it would mark the second year in a row that the city and county have extended the agreement by a single year in hopes they can hash out a contract both are happy with. The point of contention, in broad strokes, is that city leaders have pressed Multnomah County in recent years to spend more Joint Office dollars on emergency shelter beds, while the county has prioritized rent assistance.

Update, Wednesday 4:45 pm: City Council on Wednesday morning voted to send the ordinance to a second reading next week. All council members—except for City Commissioner Mingus Mapps—expressed optimism that the city and county could come to a contract both are happy with.

The emergency ordinance, if approved on Wednesday, directs the city to “review the vitality and sustainability of the ongoing relationship with Multnomah County with respect to the JOHS in December of 2023, to determine if renewal or dissolution is the best option.”

Mayor Ted Wheeler and County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson are proving a more amicable pair than the mayor and previous County Chair Deborah Kafoury, sources in City Hall tell WW. That’s led to hope that the city and county have a better chance of reaching an agreement on the Joint Office than they had last year.

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