The City of Portland's struggle to find permanent homes for thousands of people living on the streets is making progress, but the city could get a shot in the arm if voters pass an affordable housing bond measure.
By the city's own measure, Portland is short roughly 24,000 units of affordable housing.
New affordable apartment buildings, like The Abigail in the Pearl District, have been gradually coming online, but in The Abigail's case, 97 percent of its 128 affordable units were leased in advance.
The city currently has eight affordable housing projects in some phase of development, but the process can be slow.
"It is a little frustrating because it takes sometimes a year to two years just to get something designed, permitted, and actually constructed," said Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
Saltzman said there are currently 2,000 units in the production pipeline, but only a fraction of those will be priced to be affordable for people making below 30 percent of the city's median income, which the city considers the people with the biggest need.
"It's hard to target that market. That's an area the private sector is not wanting to build for," said Saltzman. "It's not profitable. It's hard to make money."
To address that disconnect, Saltzman sponsored a bond measure on the November ballot that will ask voters for nearly $260 million to build 1,300 units to serve that bottom tier of the affordable housing market.
"We feel like it's the right time for the public to be able to support this kind of effort," said Israel Bayer, Executive Director of the weekly publication Street Roots, which focuses on homelessness, poverty, and social justice issues.
"We're asking homeowners to pay about $6.25 a month to be able to support giving thousands of people the opportunity to have a home. That's more or less two cups of coffee," said Bayer, who has been vocally in support of the bond measure.
Richard Edwards, who was able to find affordable housing for his family about three years ago, also supports the bond measure. Prior to finding housing, he and his wife lived out of their car for six months.
"I think back all the time about where we were, how we were. We were truly blessed," said Edwards.
Under the parameters of the bond measure, Saltzman said the city would spend roughly $188,000 per unit of affordable housing.
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