Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Housing issues at the forefront of Portland mayor's race

Share

Housing and homeless issues dominated the mayor's race this week.

On Wednesday, Multnomah County Commissioner Jules Bailey discussed his plans to address the issues of affordable housing and homelessness on Oregon Public Broadcasting's Think Out Loud.

Among other things, Bailey said part of the solution would be to create a “fast-track” for developers looking to build smaller homes or multi-family units that rent or sell to middle-income families.

For those housing units, “we’re going to put you to the front of the [permitting] list; we’re going to waive some of your costs and some of your fees; and we’re going to make sure you get your permits,” Bailey said. You can hear the program at www.opb.org/radio/programs/thinkoutloud/segment/jules-bailey-portland-mayor-candidate-housing.

Then on Thursday, the day after the City Council approved the controversial move of the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp from Chinatown to inner Southeast Portland, State Treasurer Ted Wheeler released a 14-point plan for addressing homelessness. It includes increasing the frequency of homeless counts to better measure the population, quickly opening more indoor shelters as alternatives to outdoor camping, establishing a deadline for ending mass outdoor camping, and building more permanent affordable housing.

"This is an issue everywhere I go. People recognize we have a humanitarian crisis, but outdoor camping is not a solution and it impact public health and safety," Wheeler said.

According to Wheeler, his "comprehensive approach to addressing homelessness" is intended to supplement and not replace other efforts to reduce homelessness and create more affordable housing, such as the partnership between Portland, Gresham, Multnomah County and Home Forward known as A Home for Everyone.

Wheeler places a greater emphasis on creating more indoor shelter space that the other efforts, however. He even wants architects to suggest how unused city facilities can be converted into shelters. They include the warehouse at the former Portland of Portland-owned Terminal 1 that has now houses the indoor running track scheduled to be used elsewhere for the upcoming IAAF World Indoor Championships.

"That's 16,000 square feet of space surrounded by a lot of parking," Wheeler says of the facility, located at 2400 N.W. Front Ave.

You can read Wheeler's plan at www.tedwheeler.com/ted-wheeler-outlines-comprehensive-approach-to-addressing-homelessness.

Bailey, serves on the executive committee of A Home for Everyone. It has approved a plan to spend $30 million in city and county funds to reduce homeless in Portland by 50 percent within a few years. It was not involved in the decision to relocate the R2DToo homeless camp to Southeast 3rd Avenue and Harrison Street, a plan supported by homeless advocates but opposed by many nearby businesses and residents.

Housing issues surface at Thursday debate

Wheeler's campaign released the plan while he was appearing a debate with two other major candidates for mayor, Bailey and Sarah Iannarone, the assistant director of First Stop Portland at Portland State University, which arranges tours from out-of-town delegations want to learn more about the city, among other things.

The debate was before the Columbia Corridor Association, which includes representatives of many of the industrial businesses in and around the Portland Harbor. It was held at the Embassy Suite Hotel near Portland International Airport.

Much of the debate was spent discussing the lack of housing in the Portland region that the poor and even middle class wage earners can afford.

"Portland does not have a comprehensive housing policy that ensures there is enough of the right kind of house in the right locations to meet everyone's needs. Instead, when there's a crisis, the city throws money at it," Iannarone said.

Bailey and Wheeler agreed, especially when is comes to ensuring there is enough middle class housing to meet the need. Bailey showed a city map which reveals that almost everyone who works in the Columbia Corridor lives in outer east Portland, where housing is less expensive, even though they are paid middle class wages. He predicted that many of those workers will be forced to move farther away unless the city can increase the supply of housing they can afford.

"We haven't had a discussion about market rate housing," said Bailey, who repeated several of the proposals he made on Think Out Loud.

Wheeler also said the city could bring residential construction costs down by streaming the permitting system and design review process.

"This is a crisis that's been building for a long time," said Wheeler, who noted one recent study found Portland to be the second least affordable city in the country.

In sharp contrast to the Republican Presidential debates, Thursday's mayoral debate was characterized by civility between the three candidate. Although each said they were uniquely qualified to be mayor, they all said the other candidates would make good mayors, too.

"As you can see, there are a lot of good people running for mayor," Wheeler said.

The Portland Tribune and Oregon Public Broadcasting are news partners.