The Metro affordable housing bond is well on its way to meet or excel the commitments made to voters. 2,000 of the promised 3,900 new affordable homes are already in development, and only one third of the available funds has been committed.
That is the highlight of the housing bond’s first annual report, titled “Under construction: Metro’s affordable housing bond at work,” presented Thursday during a meeting of the Metro Council. The report was presented by Metro’s Housing Director Patricia Rojas and Housing Program & Policy Manager Emily Lieb, as well as the co-chairs of the community oversight committee, Jenny Lee and Steve Rudman.
The report details progress on production goals, project locations, economic opportunities and community engagement. It shows a commitment to the program’s core values, which are to lead with racial equity, create opportunity for those in need, support housing choice throughout the region and ensure good use of public dollars.
Greater Portland voters trusted Metro in October 2018 with a $653 million bond to support the creation of new, permanently affordable homes across the region for seniors, families, veterans and others who need them. The measure included accountability requirements for advancing racial equity and annual reporting and review. A little over two years later, Metro and its seven implementation partners — Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties and the cities of Beaverton, Gresham, Hillsboro and Portland — are making good progress on that promise.
Thanks to a combination of policy changes and market forces, as well as early action from implementation partners, the average amount of funding needed per unit to achieve our targets is lower than initially forecasted. As of May 2021, there are four projects under construction and close to 20 more in the pipeline, collectively representing 2,146 new affordable homes. That is enough to house more than 6,000 people in need. And that is with less than $220 million committed in funding.
The report shows that community engagement has been a key part of the process. Metro requires housing bond project developers to engage communities of color, people with low incomes, seniors, people with disabilities and others who have been left out of housing opportunities and the creation of housing policy. Input from these groups must meaningfully inform each project in support of future tenant success and community wellbeing.
Metro councilors were pleased with the report and expressed hope that these results will enable the program to do more with more. “Tackling this affordability crisis takes a lot of leadership, takes a lot of strategy, takes a lot of effort and energy to really provide this fundamental need,” said Councilor Juan Carlos Gonzalez. “I’m looking at the success, I’m looking at the numbers, and I’m asking how can we do more? How do we do more to address this lack of supply?”
An interactive version of the report, featuring photos, graphics and interactive maps can be found here. The full report can be downloaded here.