Oregon agency proceeds with $652.8 million housing bond measure

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Voters in the greater Portland, Oregon, area will decide in November whether to support a $652.8 million affordable housing bond.

The Metro Council – representing three counties and 24 cities including Portland – voted unanimously Thursday to pursue the ballot measure.

“We have a moral imperative to help families who are struggling – because it’s who we are as Oregonians,” Metro Council President Tom Hughes said in an agency article.

The agency hopes to create up to 3,900 homes and house up to 12,000 residents – focusing on those who make far less than the median income.

The bond would cost 24 cents per $1,000 of assessed value – $60 a year for the average homeowner, according to Metro.

“For $5 a month for the average homeowner, we can get 12,000 people into housing,” Hughes said.

The plan is the culmination of a more than a year of debate on how to address what officials described as a “historic housing crisis” in the region. Even as the area’s economy has grown, many of its poorest people have been priced out, according to an agency report.

The plan represents a broader approach by Metro, which has focused in the past on creating housing near transit centers.

The agency – whose duties include transportation planning, managing parks and trails, and running recreation facilities including the Oregon Zoo – will work with housing agencies in the region to distribute projects based on the assessed value of each county, under the plan.

Bond proceeds would be used to build new housing; acquire and renovate existing low-cost housing; and purchase land for future housing.

Also on the November ballot is an initiative that would lift a state constitution prohibition on the use of general obligation bonds for nongovernmental projects. If it passes, Metro officials say they could work with non-governmental housing groups to build more projects and reach the 3,900-home goal.

If the constitutional amendment is not approved, Metro estimates it would only be able to build 2,400 homes for about 7,500 residents instead.

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Bond elections Housing Oregon