The Metro Council is considering what it can do to make housing in the Portland metropolitan area more affordable. At a recent retreat the Council reviewed a new poll about public attitudes about growth, housing, transportation and parks. Based on the poll, the elected councilors directed their staff to work with advocates and local cities and counties to determine how best to help.
According to a late October poll sponsored by Metro more than three-quarters of voters in the greater Portland area say affordable housing is important, and more than half say it’s the most pressing issue in the metro area. The poll of 800 likely voters, with a margin of error of 3.5 percent, was conducted by FM3 Research.
The poll found that 84 percent of respondents said housing is a serious or significant problem, and 66 percent would be willing to pay another $50 a year in taxes for more affordable housing. A $50 a year property tax increase in the Metro area –– about 20 cents per $1,000 of assessed value –– would be enough to cover an approximately $500 million bond.
Concern about housing was consistent across the three counties in the Metro area, ranging from 62 percent in Clackamas County to 69 percent in Multnomah County. Only voters within the Metro service district – which roughly corresponds to the urban growth boundary – were surveyed.
“This poll confirms what housing advocates, renters, seniors and others have been saying for far too long -- housing should be an urgent priority for local leaders,” said Tom Hughes, Metro’s elected president. “Private developers and non-profits are not getting the job done alone. It’s time for our community to come together and do more to ensure seniors, veterans, families and working people can afford a place to call home.”
Politicians (88 percent), developers (87 percent), landlords (81 percent) banks (74 percent), members of the public (76 percent) and large businesses (70 percent) have a responsibility to address the issue, poll respondents said. Sixty-one percent said they personally have a responsibility to address the housing crisis.
The Census Bureau estimates that more than 3,000 people a month move to Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties combined.
“People will keep moving here and being born here. Just like our parents and grandparents, we all have a role to play to ensure our community continues to thrive in the face of change,” Hughes said. “Right now, people are telling us that means making housing more affordable for everyone.”
The poll found congestion also is important to voters, with 32 percent saying traffic, roads or transit are the most pressing issue in the Portland metropolitan area.
The poll also asked people about Metro’s parks and natural areas program. Metro manages more than 17,000 acres in the three-county area. Sixty-two percent of respondents said taxes for Metro’s parks program should be kept the same, and only 6 percent said they should be reduced.
Based on the poll, Metro will convene local cities, counties, housing experts and others and ask them to begin shaping a possible ballot measure focused on housing affordability. If agreement is reached, the Metro Council could refer a measure to voters as soon as next November.