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UPDATE: Washington County-based business organization supports state ballot measure intended to ease restrictions on funding such projects.

COURTESY: METRO - The Sunset View Apartments in Beaverton is an example of the kind of affordable housing units that can be built if the Metro bond measure and the proposed amendment to the Oregon Constitution both pass at the Nov. 6 general election.The Beaverton Chamber of Commerce came out against Metro's affordable housing bond following the first joint appearance by both sides of the campaign.

Although the Washington County-based business organization said its members are concerned about increasing home prices, it decided the regional government's $652.8 million measure lacks the level of details and specificity needed to win its endorsement.

Instead, in an Aug. 3 statement, the organization said it supported more local approaches to the problems, such as a serial levy the Washington County Commission had been exploring that would have included housing and job training funds before Metro referred its measure to the Nov. 6 ballot.

"The Chamber will work diligently as a partner and strongly encourage Washington County to move forward rapidly and collaboratively with its local municipalities and stakeholders to bring about a comprehensive and specific plan to provide much needed units in our community, while addressing the root causes of the cost issue such as System Development Charges (SDCs), land supply and education/workforce development," the organization said in an Aug. 3 statement.

In its statement, the chamber supported a proposed amendment to the Oregon Constitution on the same ballot that would ease state restrictions on the use of affordable housing bond funds, Measure 102.

"The aim of such an amendment will create opportunities for public-private partnership solutions to our affordable housing shortage in Beaverton, in Washington County and throughout the state of Oregon," the chamber said.

The Portland Bureau Alliance has endorsed both measures.

The chamber's decision followed Aug. 2 presentations by both supporters and opponents of the measure to its Business Advisory Council. Metro President Tom Hughes and Metro President-elect Lynn Peterson supported Measure 26-199 before the Business Advisory Council of the Beaverton Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. Washington County Chair Andy Duyck opposed it.

"If you work hard, you should be able to put a roof over your head," said Peterson, noting that workers must earn $25 an hour to afford a two-bedroom home anywhere in the region today.

"Metro put the measure on the ballot before it was finished," said Duyck, pointing out that unless the proposed constitutional amendment passes, the bond will only fund up to 2,400 new units of affordable housing.

The meeting was the time the two sides have appeared together before the same group. Hughes, Peterson and Duyck all agreed that low-income households are struggling to afford their homes in today's market. But they disagreed over the measure, which would cost the average homeowner $60 a year for 20 years.

Hughes and Peterson said Metro placed the measure on the ballot after local goverments asked for money to help build housing that is affordable to household who earn below the area's media family income.

"Because Metro has a regional tax base, it's the most efficient way to raise money," said Hughes.

Duyck called the number of additional units it would fund "a drop in the bucket" and predicted the cost would eventually force some low-income homeowners and renters out of their homes.

"The measure will do more harm than good," said Duyck.

Duyck also accused Metro of contributing to the affordable housing crisis by not including enough land for development in the urban growth boundary it administers when growth can occur. Hughes said other regions said the boundary is not to blame for rising home costs, noting the same problem is occuring regions without them.

Despite the disagreements, the exchanges between Hughes, Peterson and Duyck were cordial, reflecting the fact that they have known each other for years. Hughes was the mayor of Hillsboro before being elected to Metro, and Peterson is a previous chair of the Clackamas County Commission.

Council members expressed a variety of concerns during the question-and-answer period that followed the initial presentations, including whether land used for affordable housing project will reduce the property available for market-rate developments.

Passage of the measure would create a new affordable housing funding role for Metro, which is currently charged with regional land use and transportation, solid waste management, and operating a series of natural, recreational and visitor sites. The Metro Council referred the measure to the ballot after declaring that the current lack of housing affordable to households earning below the regional median family income is a regional crisis.

The measure is endorsed by many local elected officials in all three counties, along with affordable housing providers and operators, community-based organizations, and business and labor groups. The campaign in support of it is being run by Yes for Affordable Housing, a political actions committee that has so far reported raising over $175,000 in cash and in-kind contributions.

The opposition campaign is being run by Affordable Housing for WHO?, a PAC associated with Affordable Oregon, an advocacy organization that blames government regulations and fees for much of the affordable housing crisis. It has so far reported raising a little over $8,000, most of it from Duyck.

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