Metro proposed homeless tax lower than expected
A newly released report says Metro, the regional government, could raise at least $250 million per year to help the homeless in the three-county with an income tax on wealthier people in the region.
But shortly before the start of a Tuesday, Feb. 18, work session, Metro staff said the proposal they are considering would raise only $175 million per year.
Metro staff is working quickly to hit the deadline for getting the measure on the May 19 primary election ballot.
The Metro Council could vote to refer the measure to the ballot at its regular weekly meeting on Thursday, Feb. 20.
On Sunday, Portland Business Alliance officials said a progressive regional payroll tax would be a better funding source. The alliance supports increased funding for homeless services but thinks a payroll tax would be more stable during economic downturns, according to a letter sent to the council.
The homelessness measure was requested the HereTogether advocacy organization. The report was commissioned by Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties. It was conducted by the Portland-based ECONorthwest consulting firm.
The report reads: "A $250 million annual investment in homeless services in the Portland tri-county area would have a meaningful, positive impact on the lives of some of the region's most vulnerable residents. The resources would be sufficient to provide supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness at a scale unmatched by other communities along the West Coast. Additionally, the investment could fund evidence-based prevention services for a sizable share of a population that frequently transitions into chronic homeless status — low-income people with disabilities who are severely rent burdened."
State law limits Metro's personal income tax authority to 1% of the adjusted gross income of people living within its boundaries, which include the urbanized areas of all three counties. The report found a 1% tax on individuals earning more than $150,000 and couples earning more than $300,000 would raise at least $250 million per year.
Different rates applied to different incomes would raise more. The highest estimate is $274 million per year.
The examples in the report are different than what the council has been considering. It is looking at a 1% tax on individuals earning more than $125,000 per year and couples earning more than $250,000 per year. Before the session, Metro staff said that would only raise $175 million a year.
However, the report says that even $250 million per year would not completely eliminate homelessness in the Portland region.
"A comprehensive response to the crisis — an effort to end homelessness — would require a broader set of solutions, including the acceleration of housing construction at all price points, an increased supply of rent-restricted affordable housing, and additional rent subsidies," reads the report.
The report is titled "Potential Sources and Uses of Revenue to Address the Region's Homeless Crisis." You can read it here.
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