“A new era for publicly supported affordable housing programs? Measure 102 on the November 2018 ballot would amend Article XI Section 9 of the state constitution to allow wider use of public bonds in support of affordable housing programs. Cities and counties across the state, and jurisdictions such as Metro in the Portland area could offer subsidies to privately owned housing projects that promised to make available rental units at below-market rates. The measure would reverse a restriction against issuing public bonds for things privately owned, part of Oregon’s Constitution since adoption in 1859.
Measure 102 is a legislative referral, having won unanimous support in the House vote and a lopsided victory in the Senate. The proposal was prompted by Portland’s use of General Obligation bonds for affordable rental housing. A $258 million bond just passed by voters in 2016 is expected to yield approximately 1300 publicly owned units. A similar measure on the November 2018 ballot for voters in the tri-county area served by Metro, for $658 million, would yield 2400 affordable housing units if publicly owned, but as many as 3900 if the constitutional restriction on private ownership is removed. Private developers willing to include affordable units in housing projects enjoy tax credits and other incentives not available to public housings. Measure 102 supporters say the lower costs per unit justify giving up the public ownership requirement.”