Portland mayoral candidate Jules Bailey said the city he wants to lead is “becoming unaffordable.”
During an interview with OPB’s Think Out Loud Wednesday, the Multnomah County commissioner laid out his plans to address the issues of affordable housing and homelessness.
One culprit in Portland’s housing crisis, Bailey said, is big investment firms that are paying all cash for homes.
“It doesn’t even matter how much money you have as a down payment,” he said. “You cannot get a home because they’re going for so much over asking that the appraisal value won’t pencil out for you to be able to get that mortgage. That prices everyday people out of the market.”
He said part of the solution would be to create a “fast-track” for developers looking to build smaller homes or multi-family units that rent or sell to middle-income families.
For those housing units, “we’re going to put you to the front of the [permitting] list; we’re going to waive some of your costs and some of your fees; and we’re going to make sure you get your permits,” Bailey said. The Portland native said that will drive down the prices for people looking to buy or rent those units.
He also said there needs to be more tax incentives available for affordable housing. Under the current system, he pointed out, “you get a property tax abatement if you have 20 percent of your units that are being built as affordable units. Why are we only doing that for buildings that are going to be built?”
Bailey proposes that those incentives should be available to existing property owners.
Bailey also addressed how to tackle the homelessness crisis that Portland has identified as a “state of emergency.” But, he said, there’s a lack of trust with this issue in the community.
“I don’t think the public has confidence that we can make progress on homelessness.”
However, Bailey also said he believes the region is making strides on the issue. He pointed to Multnomah County’s recent effort to end veteran’s homelessness as a good model for addressing the issue in the broader population.
Bailey said “tent camping is a symptom of a larger disease,” and that there needs to be better access to mental health and addiction services in homeless camps and shelters. Too many people without housing end up in emergency rooms or jail during crises, Bailey said.
Those points may sound familiar to Portland residents. They’re similar to those being made by current mayor Charlie Hales. Bailey said that is in part due to the fact that Hales and he have been part of the same “A Home for Everyone” committee during Bailey’s time at the county.
“I don’t think that it’s time to just take a swerve from something that’s starting to take an effect now,” Bailey stated.
Another shared belief among Bailey and Hales, as well as Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman, is that Multnomah County needs to take the lead on addressing homelessness, while the city centers on affordable housing.
“I think this move … is a long time coming,” he said. “Having the county really take the lead with its social services ability is going to be very important.”
You can listen to the entire conversation with Jules Bailey in the audio file at the top of the page.