Voters in the Portland metro area approved a $652.8 million bond measure to build more affordable housing — and, in the process, embrace a new regional approach to the housing crisis.

In early returns, the Metro regional government’s borrowing plan was passing by a sizable margin. If Ballot Measure 26-199 does pass, it will pay to create between 2,400 and 4,000 units of affordable housing in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties.

The bond measure represents a more proactive approach to homelessness and rising housing prices by Metro, which oversees land use in the three-county region along with the Oregon Convention Center, the Oregon Zoo and recycling and garbage service, among other basic functions.

Metro leaders proposed the bond measure after studying housing in the Portland area and deciding that rising prices are a regional problem that requires regional solutions.

The bond measure would cost the typical Portland-area property owner about $60 a year. Half of the money raised would go to build new homes. The other half would rehabilitate existing low-cost housing, ensuring it stays in use.  

The bond is the latest and broadest attempt by local governments to curb the housing crisis. Two years ago, Vancouver voters agreed to a special tax levy for more housing, and Portland voters approved a $258 million bond measure.