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Could Ore. Ballot Measure Loosen Housing Affordability Squeeze?

Older Oregonians on fixed incomes are hurting in the state's current affordable housing crisis. (Anne Worner/Flickr)
Older Oregonians on fixed incomes are hurting in the state's current affordable housing crisis. (Anne Worner/Flickr)
October 11, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – A measure on Oregon's ballot this year aims to remove restrictions in the state's constitution and open up more affordable housing.

Referred to voters by state legislators, Measure 102 would amend the state constitution so that bond funds raised by local governments could be used on private projects to build affordable housing.

The measure gained bipartisan support in the legislature and has the backing of both gubernatorial candidates.

Statewide, Oregon faces a severe shortage of affordable housing units.

Jon Bartholomew, government relations director for AARP Oregon, says the state needs to use every approach available to tackle this problem, because it's older Oregonians who suffer most.

"Older Oregonians are often on a fixed income,” he points out. “Unfortunately, many, many Oregonians are living off of Social Security alone, and when their rent increases, they can't just go out and get a raise or find another job that pays better."

Bartholomew says the measure would open up more options and lead to more creative solutions to the state's housing crisis.

Opponents say there aren't enough safeguards in the measure to ensure it isn't abused by public officials.

Bartholomew says the Portland metro area isn't the only place facing a housing crunch. A report from 2017 found the housing shortage in Eugene was second only to Seattle.

In light of this crisis, Bartholomew says Oregon should use every tool at its disposal.

"Measure 102 is not the silver bullet to solve Oregon's housing crisis,” he admits. “However, it is one tool that should be effective in helping mediate the problems that we're seeing right now."

Passage of Measure 102 could affect a metro housing bond in Portland. According to the campaign Yes for Affordable Housing, bond Measure 26-199 is estimated to fund homes for 7,500 people and would increase to 12,000 people if the constitutional amendment passes.

State officials will begin mailing out ballots for the Nov. 6 election next week.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR