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Portland Voters Pass Affordable Housing Measure




Construction workers apply material to the side of high-rise apartments in Portland, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009.

Construction workers apply material to the side of high-rise apartments in Portland, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009.

Don Ryan/AP

Portland voters have passed a $258 million housing bond that will raise property taxes to fund 1,300 units of affordable housing. The bond will go toward alleviating the city’s current shortage of 23,845 affordable units, as determined by the Portland Housing Bureau.

Supporters hailed the passage of the bond as a victory for low-income households. The measure enjoyed rare joint support from housing activist groups like Street Roots and business groups like the Portland Business Alliance.

The bond will raise property taxes 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. A home with Portland’s median home value of $394,800 will pay about $190 more in annual property taxes under the measure.

Measure 26-179 had no organized opposition, but was criticized by some for delivering relatively little housing per dollar spent. The city of Denver expects to pay for 6,000 units of affordable housing for $150 million with a recent tax measure, at a cost of $25,000 per unit. Measure 26-179 will fund its 1,300 units at a cost of $200,000 per unit.

Proponents of Measure 26-179 said that was an unfair comparison, arguing that Denver’s plan involved subsidizing the private development of affordable housing, rather than taking on development and ownership publicly, as was proposed in Portland. Oregon state law requires property purchased with the use of bond money be wholly owned by the public

Only 950 of the 1,300 units funded by Measure 26-179 will be newly constructed. The other 350 will be acquired by the city from existing private sector stock and preserved as affordable housing.

Six hundred of the 1,300 units will be set aside for individuals and families making below 30 percent of the local median family income, which is $22,000 for a family of four or $15,400 for a single person. The remainder will be targeted toward individuals and families making below 60 percent median family income — $43,980 for a family of four or $30,800 for an individual.

Half the proposed new dwellings would be “family-sized,” consisting of a mix of two- and three-bedroom units.

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