City Council approves framework for spending affordable housing bond on Oct. 11 and will take up a resolution calling for 2,000 more supportive units next week

JOHN ROSMAN/OPB - Winter is coming and many of those living on the streets need help to find and stay in the additional affordable housing units the City Council wants to create.The City Council began reshaping Portland's affordable housing programs to focus more on reducing homelessness on Wednesday.

During its afternoon session, the council approved a framework for spending the $258.4 million affordable housing bond approved by city voters last November. The framework, drafted by an 18-member advisory commission, says the homeless and those at risk of homelessness should be prioritized for the 1,300 units the money is expected to preserve or create.

"Portland's Housing Bond is a historic opportunity to stabilize families and mitigate displacement," said Mayor Ted Wheeler. "This is the community's bond, so we took the time necessary for a deliberate and thoughtful community process to get it right. The result is better because of it."

It is the first time the council has officially voted to create so much affordable housing for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness, although many of them have occupied such units in project built with city funds in the past. Also prioritized for housing are children and those who have experienced discrimination.

Specific proposals to preserve or build the unit will soon be considered by an Affordable Housing Bond Oversight Committee appointed by the council. It is intended to assure compliance with the framework plan, which also calls for the projects to take place outside of existing urban renewal areas, where 45 percent of additional revenue generated by increases in property values are already dedicated to affordable housing projects.

Also on Oct. 11, Mayor Ted Wheeler and commissioners Chloe Eudaly filed a resolution to be considered next Wednesday to set a goal of creating 2,000 supportive housing units by 2028. Such units are reserved for those with addiction, mental health and other issues who need services to keep them housed.

The spending plan approved Wednesday by the council sets a target for 300 units of supportive housing, provided that external funding for services is secured.

An identical resolution will be considered by the Multnomah County Commission. The city and county help fund the existing supportive units in the county, along with Home Forward, the former Housing Authority of Portland.

According to the resolution, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness reports that "study after study has shown that supportive housing not only resolves homelessness and increases housing stability, but also improves health and lowers public costs by reducing the use of publicly-funded crisis services." The resolution also says the Corporation for Supportive Housing, a national leader in the field of housing and homelessness, has identified a need for 2,800 new supportive units in the county.

The big unanswered question is how to fund the services. The resolution requires the city, county, Home Forward and the Joint Office of Homeless Services to submit a plan for meeting the goal and funding the additional level of services within nine months. It may recommend new revenue sources for the services.

The moves follow the most recent Point in Time homeless count conducted earlier this year that showed an increasing percent of those without permanent housing have addiction, mental health and other issues that make it difficult for them to transition of the streets.

The council is also acting shortly after KGW-TV released a poll it commissioned that shows most Portland residents are dissatisfied with the city response to the homeless crisis.

According to the poll, 34 percent of Portlanders have considered moving out of the city because of the problem. Fifty-seven percent are dissatisfied with how Wheeler is addressing homelessness. Nearly the same percentage said they are dissatisfied with the Portland Police Bureau's response to homelessness, and 52 percent are dissatisfied with the city's business community's response. Fifty-one percent are dissatisfied with how local news organizations cover the issues, and 40 percent are dissatisfied with local service providers.

The poll was conducted by Portland-based DHM Research as part of a special report on Oct. 9 titled "Tent City USA." It also found 46 percent are dissatisfied with how Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury is addressing homelessness.

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