PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — During a press conference Friday, Metro Council President Lynn Peterson announced the council is on track with its affordable housing initiative, however, the lack of housing continues to burden Portlanders.

In July of 2021, funds were invested toward homeless services in the area to help those unhoused find the services they needed – including, shelter, mental health, addiction and employment services.

“There’s no sugarcoating this situation,” said Peterson. Despite the city’s progress, “this isn’t easy and we won’t end homelessness in the next six months.”

According to Peterson, by the end of June this year, 900 new shelter beds will be added to the already 2,200 beds available in the metro area. Along with that, 2,500 people will be living in permanent housing.

Peterson says with money slated to come in from the Supportive Housing Services Tax, in the last six months, 700 shelter beds have already come online.

The tax was approved in 2020, but is just kicking in this tax season.

It includes a 1% marginal personal income tax on people earning above $125,000 and $200,000 for joint-filers. Peterson says counties got a jump start on adding new shelter beds in anticipation of the money coming in.

“The counties won’t be able to reimburse themselves until that revenue comes in,” Peterson explained.

Peterson added “the important part of the work that’s been done, is that the counties have up-fronted themselves the money to accelerate this forward faster rather than wait for the taxes to get paid.”

In November, Denis Theriault of the Joint Office of Homeless Services gave an example on how the Supportive Housing Services funding would help keep people sheltered.

“The money that Supportive Housing Services funds is putting into shelters, that’s another 400 beds. Some of those are beds that we have open now, that are COVID-funded beds, and when the COVID money go away, we are going to be able to use the metro dollars to keep those beds open,” Theriault explained.

Metro’s Nick Christensen says the facility at Arbor Lodge is another good example.

“It is a temporary shelter for now, but thanks to the Supportive Housing measure, it’s going to be upgraded to have more permanent facilities,” Christensen said.

Peterson says beds are also being added in brand new areas.

“Washington and Clackamas have starting from essentially no shelter beds that they oversaw to being able to stand up shelters in their county,” Peterson said.

Peterson says the new funding stream is increasing the amount of money that some counties have available to them by five times or greater.   

Additionally, the Land Use Advisory Committee is helping develop shelter sites and safe camping areas.

While rising rent costs are putting a severe financial strain on metro residents, the city has been working to create affordable housing. In early November construction began for a new four-story apartment complex in Portland’s Kenton neighborhood.

According to Peterson, the Metro has built nearly 3,000 of the 3,900 homes it aimed to provide through the 2018 affordable housing bond. She noted only 48% of the allocated revenue had been used so far.

“We are suffering the consequences of decades of cuts to housing and critical services by the federal government,” said Peterson. “We are living the Reagan Revolution. Low wages, income inequality, and skyrocketing housing costs have torn apart whatever safety net we had.”

One of the ways Metro contacts people experiencing homelessness is through the RID Patrol. These are the trained crews that clean up garbage in public spaces across our region. In the last 6 months, more than 418 tons of waste have been picked up by the RID Patrol. In November alone, crews cleaned 300 sites.

Metro asks for your help to tell them about dumped garbage, which you can do at ridpatrol.oregonmetro.gov.

You can track Metro’s progress on affordable housing and garbage clean up on their new dashboards.