This year’s election has many highly contested races and hot-button measures, but most lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seem to agree that Measure 102 should pass.
The statewide ballot measure, if approved, would amend Oregon’s constitution to allow local jurisdictions’ bonds to be used to fund affordable housing projects with private and nonprofit groups. Proponents of the measure say this will make building affordable housing easier, as much of Oregon’s affordable housing is already built by private developers or nonprofits.
“At the end of the day, it’s frankly a housekeeping measure that allows funding to be used the way any other source of affordable housing gets used,” said Amy Ruiz, spokesperson for Yes on 102.
Ruiz added that if a city passes a bond to build affordable housing right now, the entity can’t leverage additional funds to build affordable housing. Passing Measure 102 would be like “putting another tool in the toolbox” for getting more projects built, she said. Measure 102 would also ease the process of building housing for smaller towns that might not have their own housing authority or department.
So far, the measure seems to be receiving bipartisan and widespread support. Both major-party governor candidates, Democrat Kate Brown and Republican Knute Buehler, said they were in favor of Measure 102. On the state voter’s pamphlet, the arguments in favor for Measure 102 were written by groups as varied as union groups (Oregon Education Association, Oregon AFL-CIO, IBEW Local 48), business organizations (Oregon State Chamber of Commerce, Oregon Home Builders Association, Portland Business Alliance), The League of Women Voters of Oregon, AARP Oregon, the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, Kaiser Permanente, and even the Portland Timbers and Thorns soccer teams.
State Sen. Alan Olsen (R-Canby) filed the sole argument against Measure 102 in the voter’s pamphlet. He warns that those who vote for a housing bond won’t know at that time the financial details of the bond and that “affordable housing” isn’t defined in the measure.
“That definition is left up to the borrowing agency, hence, each different jurisdiction can have their own definition of ‘affordable,’” he wrote.
He also warned that the measure might cause property taxes to rise.
Many city councils throughout Oregon, from Beaverton to Hood River to Medford, proclaimed their support of Measure 102, including the Bend City Council. On Aug. 15, the council unanimously approved a letter supporting the measure.
“Communities across Oregon are struggling to provide enough housing at a rate residents can afford,” said the letter written by Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell. “This amendment will make local affordable housing bonds go further without added cost to taxpayers, helping thousands more people access housing in Oregon communities that have passed affordable housing bonds.”
The city’s affordable housing manager, Lynne McConnell, said Wednesday that Bend is “not meeting the need with affordable housing.”
“As the affordable housing manager of the city of Bend, I’m constantly looking for options that allow us to increase the amount of affordable housing,” she said. “Measure 102, down the line, may increase the affordable housing.”
However, McConnell emphasized that even if Measure 102 passed, the City Council and Bend voters would still have to approve any housing bonds, so the measure doesn’t guarantee any new projects. The city doesn’t have any immediate plans for new bonds if the measure succeeds on Election Day, she added.
John Gilbert, co-operating manager of Pacific Crest Affordable Housing, a for-profit group that has built multiple housing projects for low-income seniors in Bend, La Pine and Prineville, said the measure would “definitely” help his company build more affordable housing if bonds are passed.
“Our greatest barrier to developing affordable housing is accessing long-term, low-cost funds. With Measure 102, the City of Bend would be able to make such funds available,” he wrote in an email. “With more funds we could either build more homes, or rely less on limited federal funds, which might then increase our chances of being awarded the federal funds.”
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