Housing bond measure isn't answer to crisis
No one can deny we have a crisis when it comes to affordable housing in our area.
But what is the right solution? How do we tackle the issue straight on and ensure accountability in the results?
Last Thursday the Beaverton Chamber of Commerce convened leaders, stakeholders and partners to learn about the Metro Affordable Housing Bond and the companion proposed constitutional amendment that will be on the November ballot.
Your chamber supports the constitutional amendment put forth to allow for public-private partnerships and ownership to be one part of the solution, but does not support the Metro Regional Affordable Housing Bond.
This was not an easy decision, and in my tenure, probably one of the heaviest decisions cast by the BAC and board members present. Our board knows we have a huge crisis on our hands.
The challenges with the $652.8 million 20-year bond include:
Metro does not have experience in affordable housing projects and the bond calls for a 7 percent administrative fee off the top. Washington County, since 1970, has the Housing Authority of Washington County in place (now called the Department of Housing Services) with almost 50 years of track record in the arena. This bond, if passed, would be adding an additional governmental layer and costs.
The details and levels of specificity needed to have the confidence that Beaverton and Washington County would receive its fair share of the resources are not in place in totality at this time.
The Metro bond, when retired at 20 years, will have actually cost property owners close to $1 billion and would meet, per Metro, only somewhere between 5 percent and 7 percent of the actual need in our area. That would mean 3,900 units and that is if the Constitutional Amendment passes; 2,400 if not.
The population served and eligible for this housing need wrap around services to be successful in housing and employment. There is nothing built in to the bond measure for such services.
Ultimately, this bond measure is an attempt to do something … anything. But throwing money at something without addressing its root causes is not in our best interest as the Beaverton community. We have to demand efficiency, accountability and results. To get beyond 5 percent to 7 percent of our area's need for affordable housing, we must look at land supply, system development charges and finding ways to improve education and workforce training. Our community and residents deserve that.
We are hopeful that the constitutional amendment will pass and enable public-private partnerships for affordable housing to be a larger part of the solution for affordable housing projects going forward.
The chamber leadership will work with our city, county and other stakeholders to make systemic changes and be part of a solution that will make long-term and effective changes for our residents and community. We can do better.
Lorraine Clarno is president and chief executive officer of the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce