Gaps in oversight found in Metro affordable housing bond
Metro, the regional government, disregarded some of its own procedures when selecting affordable housing projects to fund with 2018 bond money, according to a report from the Metro auditor.
Auditor Brian Evans said gaps in data collection also impeded the Affordable Housing Bond's appointed oversight committee's ability to monitor progress on some of the promises made to the public — specifically that the bond would "lead with racial equity" and "create opportunity throughout the region."
"It was hard to tell if the methods outlined in the bond's work plan were used to evaluate projects. Using different methods could make funding decisions less reliable and more difficult to defend," according to the 23-page report. "Unclear procedures also created uncertainty about project and program reporting."
For those liable to mix up their money measures, the 2018 bond is separate — but complementary — with the supportive housing services bond for the homeless later passed in May 2020.
For the 2020 bond, all three metro counties are still fine-tuning implementation plans for spending their share of the revenue from a 1% income tax on high-earners, for which collection will begin this April.
The 2018 bond uses a 24 cents per $1,000 in assessed value property tax, and was designed to create 3,900 affordable housing units on $652.8 million in revenue.
In a response to the audit, Metro Chief Operating Officer Marissa Madrigal noted that the "unanticipated" supportive housing services bond required "immediate diversion of staff capacity" in the planning department.
Administrative costs are capped at 5% of bond revenue, but "underutilized capacity" within the cap exists, Madrigal said, calling for new hires and existing vacancies to be filled in the next budget. She also disagreed with the auditor's suggestion that establishing a threshold to evaluate cost effectiveness would be helpful when reviewing project funding requests. Though not mentioned explicitly in the audit itself, Madrigal rejected the notion of establishing a minimum ratio of bond funding per unit.
"We do not believe a formulaic approach is capable of adequately reflecting and responding to the range of financial structures we see across our bond portfolio," Madrigal said. "While staff evaluate cost reasonableness as part of project evaluation … this kind of approach was intentionally not established in the program work plan."
She also acknowledged that "concept endorsement and final approval" occurred simultaneously for four initial housing projects in 2019, but defended the approach as streamlining and said their staff attorney found nothing improper.
The regional government expects to house 12,000 people across the tri-county area when all the bond money has been spent, though the first welcome mats won't unfurl until this summer.
Metro spokesman Constantino Khalaf said staff have purchased or identified five properties to purchase using the $62 million set aside for site acquisition: "Staff anticipates making property acquisitions no later than the fifth year of the Housing Bond Program, with development completed within the following two to three years," he said.
Here are the 20 projects that are so far receiving funding from Metro's Affordable Housing Bond.
• Dekum Court — a 160-unit apartment complex in northeast Portland.
• Findley Commons — a church-owned parking lot will be transformed into 35 supportive housing units for veterans in southeast Portland.
• Riverplace — a 176-unit apartment building next to a streetcar station in South Waterfront
• Rockwood 10 — a 187-unit development
• Albertina Kerr — a 150-unit development in Gresham
• Fuller Road Station Family Housing — a 100-unit building located at the MAX Green Line Fuller Road station.
• Good Shepherd Village — a 41-unit community, billed as the first ever located in Happy Valley.
• 18000 Webster Road — a 45-unit apartment complex in Gladstone.
• Maple Apartments — a 171-unit multi-building complex near Clackamas Community College in Oregon City
• Basalt Creek — a 116-unit development planned in the urban expansion area between Wilsonville and Tualatin.
• Tigard Senior Housing — a 58-unit project dedicated to serving seniors.
• The Viewfinder — an 81-unit apartment complex in Tigard.
• Terrace Glen — a 144-unit project in Tigard.
• 17811 S.W. Scholls Ferry Road — a 164-unit new community located in South Cooper Mountain.
• BRIDGE South Cooper Mountain — a 75-unit apartment building in southwest Beaverton.
• The Mary Ann — a 54-unit apartment complex in Beaverton.
• BRIDGE Aloha — an 82-unit apartment building near Tualatin Valley Highway.
• Forest Grove Family Housing — a 36-unit project located in Forest Grove.
• Nueva Esperanza — a 149-unit 12 building project in Hillsboro.
• Aloha Inn — a 54-room Permanent Supportive Housing building in Aloha.
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