Metro’s affordable housing bond program on track to deliver promises to voters

This week, Metro released the annual affordable housing bond report. The report includes details about bond housing production across the region in 2021, showing significant progress toward delivering on promises made to voters.

Regional progress on affordable housing

The bond was passed by voters in 2018 and aims to create 3,900 homes region wide. As of late June 2022, the program is 82% of the way to its goal of 3,900 new homes, with only 56% of funds committed. Progress includes: 

  • 3,179 new homes in some stage of production that use bond funding 
  • 1,353 apartments either in construction or completed  
  • 1,826 apartments in some stage of pre-construction development  
  • Across the five completed apartment communities, 265 apartments with a total of 433 bedrooms – many already occupied by residents 
  • 20 developments scheduled to break ground in the next 18 months

Most bond funded projects will break ground by 2024, with the remaining few expected to break ground by 2026. This means that most of these new apartment communities will open to residents by 2025. Additionally, in response to the deadly heat dome event in June 2021, all projects going forward will include air conditioning.

Staff presented the report and latest data to the Metro Council on July 19.

“It’s nice to get such a positive report and to see that things are moving along well,” said Councilor Gerritt Rosenthal.  “It’s very encouraging to see that the committee is paying close attention to these things.”

Creating more permanent supportive housing

Metro’s supportive housing services fund is another important piece to addressing housing needs across greater Portland. Using this funding, approved by voters in 2020, Metro and its regional partners have been able to significantly expand the amount of permanent supportive housing (PSH) available. PSH meets the needs of households experiencing long-term homelessness by pairing a rental home with ongoing rent assistance and services in areas such as mental health, education, employment, addiction and recovery.

As of June 2022, the bond pipeline includes 595 PSH homes. These use a mix of federal and local funding sources, including Metro’s supportive housing services fund.

Advancing equity

Metro and its implementation partners are also making progress on equity goals, from project construction to the leasing process. So far, developments are located throughout greater Portland, countering the past practice of building affordable housing exclusively in certain neighborhoods, while wealthier areas typically don’t have any; 38% of homes are located in places with less of this type of housing than the regional average.

Projects are also on track to meet or exceed the goal of at least 20% of construction funding going to state certified minority, women or emerging small businesses.

Addressing barriers in the housing search is another important part of the bond program’s equity approach. Projects include plans and partnerships that aim to address common barriers households face when trying to access housing, such as lack of credit or rental history.

Metro Council President Lynn Peterson highlighted the importance of working in collaboration with Metro’s regional partners. “I also want to thank all of our partners out there who have been implementing all of this on the ground,” she said. “It’s very exciting to see this move forward, and moving forward with efficiency. Looking forward to doing more!”

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