Lawmakers OK money for motel conversions, housing tax break
Gov. Kate Brown is the final stop for measures to provide more money for emergency shelters — one of them in Multnomah County — and give a property tax break to religious organizations that build low-cost housing.
Both bills won final legislative approval Thursday, June 17, from the Oregon Senate, which did not amend them. Chief sponsor for both was House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland.
House Bill 2004, passed 23-5, adds $9.7 million to an unspent $3.8 million to enable the Oregon Community Foundation to fund four more conversions of motels into shelters under Project Turnkey. Foundation officials said they cannot disclose details until purchase arrangements are complete, but legislative reports say the projects are in Multnomah, Deschutes, Malheur and Yamhill counties, and will provide a total of 132 units.
Last year, lawmakers on the Emergency Board approved a total of $65 million for conversions under Project Turnkey. Six counties affected by the 2020 Labor Day wildfires created 388 units with $30 million, which has been spent. All but $3.8 million of the $35 million approved for the rest of Oregon has been spent. There are a total of 15 projects statewide.
"We've seen a lot of success stories with Project Turnkey in communities across Oregon," Kotek said in a statement after the Senate vote.
"This is one tool to address our unsheltered homelessness crisis and the additional funding will be especially important as we head into next winter. I'm appreciative of the bipartisan support for this innovative program."
Among Portland-area projects receiving grants from the foundation:
• East Portland, $7 million to Central City Concern for conversion of a 70-unit motel.
• Gresham, $7 million to Rockwood Community Development Corp. for conversion of a 75-unit motel.
• Hillsboro, $6.2 million to Washington County, Bienestar and the Urban League of Portland for conversion of a 60-unit motel.
• Forest Grove, $2.2 million to Centro Cultural de Washington County for conversion of a 20-unit motel.
Among others that have received grants are Bethlehem Inn in Redmond, $2.7 million for a 25-unit project, and the Community Action Program of East Central Oregon, $1.3 million for a 35-unit project in Pendleton.
House Bill 2008, passed 24-4, grants a tax exemption to a religious organization that uses its property for lower-cost housing, defined as affordable by households earning less than 60% of an area's median income. (Under a federal definition, housing is considerable affordable if the cost is no more than 30% of household income.) The property must remain in that status for 60 years. The bill also restricts conditions that local governments can impose on housing.
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