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The Portland City Council voted unanimously Wednesday morning to transfer most of its homeless programs to Multnomah County and create a new Joint Office of Homeless Services.


The Multnomah County Commissioner is expected to reassign its homeless programs to the new office on Thursday.

The merger is one of many steps the city and county have taken together in recent years to better address homelessness as the lack of affordable housing has become a prominent issue.

The vote came on the same day the Portland Housing Bureau announced it was buying the Joyce Hotel, the last remaining inexpensive weekly occupancy hotel in the city for $4.2 million. Located at Southwest 11th and Stark, the Joyce has 69 single and hostel-style rooms that rent for $19 to $50 a night. It’s owners had been evicting tenants ahead of a planned sale.

“There has been an unprecedented level of cooperation between the city and county,” Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury testified before the council in support of the merger.

Mayor Charlie Hales said that homeless services have been illogically divided between the city and county for many year, reducing the effectiveness of their delivery.

“The city has been responsible for homeless adults, and the county has been responsible for families, children and survivors of domestic violence. That just doesn’t make any sense,” Hales said.

Under the Intergovernmental Agreement approved by the council, the new office is guaranteed a base budget of $15 million from each government, with a two percent increase every year. The proposed budget for the first year is actually $47 million, however.

Although most of the city’s homeless services will transfer to the new office, the housing bureau will remain in the city. It is the single largest provider of public funds for affordable housing projects in the region. The council has significantly increased its funding over the past year by increasing the percent of urban renewal funds dedicated to affordable housing from 30 to 45 percent, and by creating a new $20 million program to mitigate the effects of gentrification in North and Northeast Portland.

“Today’s action is a piece of our larger effort on housing and homelessness,” Hales said.

In the announcement of the purchase of the Joyce Hotel, Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who is in charge of the housing bureau, said, “I am very pleased that the Joyce Hotel will remain open so that some of the most vulnerable people in our community will have a safe place to go, rather than being out on the street. As a compassionate city, we must continue to prioritize our resources to invest in the social safety net for Portlanders who are most vulnerable and at risk.”

According to the announcement, the remaining 20 tenants at the hotel will be moved to other housing while the city renovates it.

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