Measure allows local governments to use bonds in partnership with developers to build affordable housing.

When Oregonians receive their Voters Pamphlets a month from now they will find it filled with contests featuring candidates offering extremely different visions about where their state, counties and communities should be going. They will see competing arguments on state and local measures that would dictate how we deal with immigrants and raise fees. They'll wade through debates about how their local governments should move forward on a variety of topics, from how they finance their elections and run their meetings to how they pay for teachers and keep their fire trucks running.

For many voters, those will be tough choices.

But the first statewide measure they see on their ballot should not be difficult at all.

Ballot Measure 102 cleans up archaic language in the Oregon Constitution and could help address a problem facing virtually every Oregon community: a lack of affordable housing. It does so by allowing local governments to use general obligation bonds in partnership with private developers to build or refurbish affordable housing.

There are countless examples across the state where nonprofit and for-profit organizations have been able to build quality affordable housing for far less than a government entity can. That's due to a lot reasons, including the fact that their costs may be lower and they have more construction experience.

But under current law, local governments can't have these partnerships if they are using general obligation bond money.

That's because Oregon's current constitution, adopted in 1859, included a provision prohibiting cities, counties and other local public bodies from "raising money" for any "joint company, corporation or association."

Most lawyers have interpreted that ban, which was aimed at preventing corruption and risky investments with taxpayer money, as precluding local governments from owning and maintaining any housing projects financed with money raised from general obligation bonds.

We're not big on changing the state constitution, but in this case, an update is in order. And the Oregon Legislature, which put Measure 102 on the ballot, agreed. The legislation passed unanimously in the state House and by a 24-5 vote in the state Senate. The change would only affect general obligation bonds sold for the purposes of building or preserving affordable housing. The other original safeguards would remain in place.

There's no organized opposition to the measure, which has been endorsed by a variety of local elected officials and organizations, including AARP Oregon, Oregon State Council for Retired Citizens, and 1000 Friends of Oregon.

This one's easy. Voters support Measure 102 to give local governments a needed tool to help create and preserve affordable housing throughout the state.

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