What is affordable housing?
Affordable housing can be defined in many ways. Some use the term to refer to any lower-cost housing; others use it to describe regulated low-cost housing specifically meant to serve low-income people. Metro generally uses the phrase in this second way: we are helping create around 4,700 regulated, affordable homes. Most of these homes will remain affordable for a minimum of 60 years. People will qualify for these homes by showing their income level (in relation to the area median income, or AMI).
Metro also uses the term "equitable housing." This describes the broader goal of ensuring all people in the Portland area are able to find a home that meets their needs and income levels, regardless of race, ethnicity, ability and income.
Challenges in housing and job markets, the environment and the transportation system do not stop at city limits or county lines. Housing is a critical piece of regional infrastructure. Where someone lives affects their ability to access jobs, education, social networks, nature and quality of life – as well as the choices available to them. Because of systemic racism and discrimination, many people have not been able to access safe stable housing. Metro plays many roles in promoting a strong and equitable regional housing network: through planning, partnership and collaboration, grant funding and research, and by finding new solutions as our region continues to grow and evolve.
Metro works to create housing opportunities and address racial disparities in access to housing for people at all income levels. Metro partners with cities, counties, housing and service providers, and culturally specific organizations across the region to advance equitable housing solutions.
In 2018, guided by several years of research and engagement, Metro worked with partners and community members to set the goals for the affordable housing bond program:
- Create 3,900 permanently affordable homes
- Build half of the homes with two, three and four bedrooms – big enough to accommodate families
- Reserve 1,600 homes for people with very low incomes ($26,000 per year or less for a family of four)
- Advance racial equity through workforce diversity, community engagement, affirmative marketing and other strategies
The need for affordable homes varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. This story, “What affordable housing looks like in greater Portland,” shows three examples of affordable housing projects. In consideration of these differences, participating cities and counties created plans to build new affordable homes and protect existing ones – plans tailored to their community’s specific needs. Following the bond's passage, Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties and the cities of Beaverton, Gresham, Hillsboro and Portland, each conducted extensive engagement that informed local plans that were submitted to the Metro Council for approval. Agreements were executed that deliver bond funds from Metro to these implementing partners based on the unique plans approved for each.
The bond aims to create 3,900 affordable homes by funding property acquisition and development projects to create new affordable homes distributed across the region – 21% in Clackamas County, 45% in Multnomah County and 34% in Washington County, based on how many people live in each county.
In 2019, Metro issued $652.8 million of bonds to fund the program. Bond debt payments are funded by property taxes. Property owners are assessed approximately 20 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to pay for the annual debt service, which is expected to be fully paid in 2039. In Fiscal Year 2023-24 the rate was 18.97 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $47 annually for a home with an assessed value of $250,000.
The bond is currently exceeding its goal, for an estimated 4,700 homes. All funding will be committed by the end of 2024, all projects are expected to break ground by no later than 2026, and will complete construction within a few years of their groundbreakings.
Housing implementation partners