Inbox: Letters About Housing Costs and Measure 97

Calculating Housing Costs

With many Portlanders keenly interested in the state of affordable housing in the area, Nigel Jaquiss' article was well-timed ["Roofless," WW, Sept. 28, 2016]. However, he missed the mark on how affordable housing ends homelessness for people by merely counting units.

The article claims that the remodel and seismic upgrade of the Henry Building will run $1,000 per square foot. The calculation is made solely on the square footage of the residential units and eliminates the rest of the building—foundation, basement, hallways, etc. The actual per-square-foot price of renovating the 62,782-square-foot building is $357; the Portland Housing Bureau is investing $85,000 per unit, roughly $255 per square foot in the building's residential portion.

Last year, the Henry's 150 units served 370 people who were homeless or at risk; 230 resolved their homelessness and moved into permanent housing. Over 20 years, that translates to helping 4,600 people resolve their homelessness, with services to an additional 2,800. The building's downtown location is vital to that success.

Does Portland need more affordable housing? Yes. Can some costs be reduced? Likely. Is every unit of affordable housing the same? No. Simply stating that a unit could be done cheaper on 171st Avenue misses the point.

Taken as a whole and over time, we need wise investment decisions that deliver affordability—geographically and demographically—across populations. When looking at an issue this important and complex, determining value takes more than just a calculator.

—Ed Blackburn, executive director

Central City Concern

Weighing in on Measure 97

WW left out the biggest myth of all about Measure 97—that corporations will easily pass the new taxes to their customers ["Measuring 97," WW, Oct. 5, 2016]. The competing economic arguments—will they or won't they pass the tax through?—may leave many voters confused and uncertain. That leaves the common-sense test.

Large corporations have already donated $17 million to the No on 97 campaign, and more is likely to come. History shows that Oregon corporations support sales taxes. If 97 were a real sales tax, they'd be donating those millions to the Yes on 97 campaign.

But they're donating to the No on 97 campaign. Why is that? Common sense tells you they must have decided they'll have to pay all or almost all of it. What do you think?

—David Roth

Tax Fairness Oregon

Corporations helped create America's wealth and its middle class. Whether or not we like it, the financial health of corporations, communities and individuals are interconnected.

The things that are easy to hate about corporations—CEO pay, for example—need to change, but that isn't what Measure 97 targets.

To pretend that Measure 97 won't hurt smaller businesses is ignoring how interrelated our economic system is.

—Pamela Fitzsimmons

Letters to the editor must include the author's street address and phone number for verification. Letters must be 250 or fewer words. Submit to: 2220 NW Quimby St., Portland, OR 97210. Email: