FONT & AUDIO
Governor shocked by number of homeless campers in Portland
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Friday she is "stunned" by the "overwhelming" number of homeless people living in tents in Portland.
Mayor Charlie Hales says the number of homeless people are not any higher than in the past, but they are more visible because the city has developed the vacant lands where many of them have lived in the past.
Brown made her comments during a meeting of the Oregon Housing Stability Council where she signed a number of affordable housing bills approved by the 2016 Oregon Legislature.
A former Portland legislator, Brown told the council, "I'm in Salem most of the time, and I'm just stunned by the number of people living in tents in Portland. It's just overwhelming."
Hales was at the meeting when Brown made her statement. Asked by the Portland Tribune for a response, he said many people are probably stunned by the number of people they see living in tents in Portland these days.
But Hales insisted the numbers are not larger than in the past, and are probably lower following the opening of three new homeless shelters by the city and Multnomah County since the housing emergency was declared. He said they have only become more visible since he directed the police to reduce homeless sweeps after the City Council declared a housing state of emergency last October.
"A 1987 homeless plan said their visibility would increase after the city develops the land where many of the homeless have lived since the earliest shipping days," Hales told the Portland Tribune.
The exchange happened the day after many Portlanders were alarmed when a homeless man allegedly shot and critically wounded another homeless man in a collection of tents along a sidewalk in inner Southeast Portland. Police are still looking for the suspect. Their names were not immediately released.
The council advises the state on affordable housing issues. Before the bill signing ceremony, Brown told the council that housing affordability is a statewide crisis.
"One in three renters are paying more than 50 percent of their income for housing, and one in two are paying more than 30 percent," Brown said.
Some of the bills she signed are intended to increase the supply of housing affordable to people earning below the state's median income. One removes the prohibition against cities requiring developers to include affordable units in their housing projects, provided they offer incentives to help compensation for the reduce income. It also allows cities to impose a small construction excise tax to help fund affordable hosing projects.
Another bill increases renter protections by preventing rent increases during the first year of occupancy and requiring 90 day notification for increases after that. Brown admitted the protections were modest by helpful, given skyrocketing housing housing costs.
In addition to Hales, the meeting was attended by affordable housing advocates and a number of other elected officials, including Commissioner Dan Saltzman and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury.