In recent years, homelessness and housing prices have both increased dramatically in the Portland metropolitan region.
The region’s voters approved a regional affordable housing bond in November 2018. Metro is now funding the creation of thousands of permanently affordable homes throughout the region.
The Metro Council has proposed a regional supportive housing services measure, developed with community members and leaders from around the Portland region, to fund additional services to help people experiencing homelessness find and stay in housing.
Supportive housing services measure
On Feb. 25, 2020, the Metro Council referred a regional supportive housing services ballot measure to voters for consideration on the Oregon primary ballot in May 2020. The program would fund services to prevent homelessness across the Portland region.
The measure would prioritize housing services for as many as 5,000 people experiencing prolonged homelessness with complex disabilities, and provide additional housing services to more than 10,000 households experiencing short term homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness.
The measure would fund services like case management, mental health care, addiction and recovery treatment, job training, housing assistance and culturally-specific services that have been demonstrated in peer-reviewed research to effectively and permanently elevate people out of homelessness.
The measure would raise an estimated $248 million annually to fund supportive housing services throughout the Portland region.
How would the measure be funded?
The measure proposes a marginal 1% tax on all taxable income in the Portland region over $200,000 for joint filers, or $125,000 for single filers. The measure also proposes a 1% tax on business profits in the Portland region for businesses with annual gross receipts over $5 million.
How many people need assistance?
Estimates of homelessness in the region range between 6,000 and 12,000 people.
In January 2019, officials counted 5,711 people experiencing homelessness in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties. Additionally, the Oregon Department of Education counted more than 7,000 students who experienced homelessness in the 2018 school year in Metro-area school districts. These reports undercount people experiencing homelessness while staying with a friend or family, or living in vehicles.
In recent years, more people are experiencing "chronic" or prolonged homelessness. Approximately 3,123 to 4,935 people in the region experience homelessness related to complex and disabling conditions.
Who becomes homeless in the Portland region?
The January 2019 count found that the majority of those surveyed in Multnomah County are longtime Oregonians who lost access to housing because of rent increases. A quarter of people experiencing homelessness in greater Portland were born in the region; more than half had lived in the region for more than two years. Thirty-six percent were people of color, including 14% of indigenous ancestry.
More than three-quarters had a disability. Nearly half had experienced domestic violence.
Local communities use funds
Revenue would be distributed within the portions of Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties that are inside Metro’s district. Revenue would be distributed proportionate to the tax revenue estimated to be collected from individuals in those counties.
Agencies addressing homelessness in Multnomah County would receive 45.3% of the revenue, Washington County agencies would receive 33.3%, and Clackamas County agencies would receive 21.3% of the collected revenue.
Each county will develop a local implementation plan based on local need. Funds will be distributed as rent assistance through local housing authorities, and service contracts with local social service and health care providers who serve people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.
Accountability and oversight
Oversight would be provided by a 20-member committee that broadly represents the diversity of the region and lends expertise to the program. Members would provide policy and programmatic guidance, monitor programmatic expenditures and evaluate outcomes. All meetings and materials of the community oversight body would be available and accessible to the public.
Metro is required to have an annual independent financial audit and for the results to be made publicly available.
The measure would restrict administrative expenses incurred by Metro to no more than 5% after collection expenses.
Administrative funds would pay for oversight and accountability, data collection, coordination, and other costs associated with management of the regional program.
The Oregon Primary election is scheduled for Tuesday, May 19, 2020. Ballots may be mailed to voters by county election offices as soon as May 1, 2020. The deadline for voter registration is April 28, 2020.
If the measure is approved by voters, the new tax requirements would begin in January 2021. Revenue could be available for service provision as soon as July 2021.
The measure would fund the program for 10 years until 2030. Voters could vote to extend the program beyond 2030.