Beaverton Chamber opposes Metro housing bond
Update: 11 a.m., Friday, Aug. 3
The Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce has voted to oppose a Metro bond measure in November designed to increase affordable housing throughout the region.
However, the chamber has endorsed a statewide vote on the Oregon Constitution, Measure 102, which would allow for more public-and-private partnerships in voter-funded housing projects.
Proponents and opponents of the Metro measure spoke to chamber members on Thursday.
In opposing the Metro measure, the chamber released a statement on Friday that reads: "This $652.8 million, 20-year bond is proposed without the needed, thoughtful planning . .... Additionally, the bond lacks important details and omits the level of specificity needed to have the confidence or support that it will address the affordable housing crisis in Beaverton and our region."
Metro's affordable housing measure is either a long overdue response to skyrocketing home costs or a poorly-written measure that will force more people out of their homes, depending on which elected official you listen to.
The elected regional government has referred a $652.8 million bond to build up to 3,900 new affordable housing units to the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Metro President Tom Hughes and Metro President-elect Lynn Peterson supported Measure 26-199 before the Business Advisory Council of the Beaverton Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. Washington County Chair Andy Duyck opposed it.
"If you work hard, you should be able to put a roof over your head," said Peterson, noting that workers must earn $25 an hour to afford a two-bedroom home anywhere in the region today.
"Metro put the measure on the ballot before it was finished," said Duyck, pointing out that a proposed amendment to the Oregon Constitution easing restrictions on bond spending must also pass for more that 2,400 units to be built.
The meeting was the first joint appearance of the two sides in the campaign. Hughes, Peterson and Duyck all agreed that low-income households are struggling to afford their homes in today's market. But they disagreed over the measure, which would cost the average homeowner $60 a year for 20 years.
Hughes and Peterson said Metro placed the measure on the ballot after local goverments asked for money to help build housing that is affordable to household who earn below the area's media family income.
"Because Metro has a regional tax base, it's the most efficient way to raise money," said Hughes.
Duyck called the number of additional units it would fund "a drop in the bucket" and predicted the cost would eventually force some low-income homeowners and renters out of their homes.
"The measure will do more harm than good," said Duyck.
Duyck also accused Metro of contributing to the affordable housing crisis by not including enough land for development in the urban growth boundary it administers when growth can occur. Hughes said other regions said the boundary is not to blame for rising home costs, noting the same problem is occuring regions without them.
Despite the disagreements, the exchanges between Hughes, Peterson and Duyck were cordial, reflecting the fact that they have known each other for years. Hughes was the mayor of Hillsboro before being elected to Metro, and Peterson is a previous chair of the Clackamas County Commission.
The Business Advisory Council will advise the board of the Beaverton Chamber of Commerce on whether to support the measure. Council members expressed a variety of concerns during the question-and-answer period that followed the initial presentations, including whether land used for affordable housing project will reduce the property available for market-rate developments.
Passage of the measure would create a new affordable housing funding role for Metro, which is currently charged with regional land use and transportation, solid waste management, and operating a series of natural, recreational and visitor sites. The Metro Council referred the measure to the ballot after declaring that the current lack of housing affordable to households earning below the regional median family income is a regional crisis.
The measure is endorsed by many local elected officials in all three counties, along with affordable housing providers and operators, community-based organizations, and business and labor groups. The campaign in support of it is being run by Yes for Affordable Housing, a political actions committee that has so far reported raising over $175,000 in cash and in-kind contributions.
The opposition campaign is being run by Affordable Housing for WHO?, a PAC associated with Affordable Oregon, an advocacy organization that blames government regulations and fees for much of the affordable housing crisis. It has so far reported raising a little over $8,000, most of it from Duyck.