Multnomah County residents have one more chance to weigh in on a budget that will put $255 million — a historically large investment — into trying to reverse the region’s worsening homelessness crisis.
That’s the most the county has ever allocated for homeless services over a one-year period. The unprecedented sum is largely due to tax money made available by the Metro Supportive Housing Services measure, which voters in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties embraced easily in 2020. It comes primarily from a tax 1% on well-off incomes, intended for services that help people who are homeless or at risk of losing their housing.
The pot of money has come under intense scrutiny lately due to an effort by a political group called People for Portland, which aimed to divert most of the funds to emergency shelters. The group had argued that local governments were not doing enough to address the humanitarian crisis on the streets. Portland residents had been pushing for all municipalities receiving tax money to spend 75% of it on housing until there were enough beds for the area’s entire homeless population.
A judge ruled last week that the measure was unconstitutional and could not pass the November ballot.
As People for Portland’s efforts crumble, Multnomah County is moving forward with plans to spend the money as it originally intended: rental assistance, case management, short-term shelter, and permanent housing with support services.
In the coming fiscal year, county officials expect the levy will provide them with $107 million to spend on homeless services, according to a budget submission made to county commissioners last week by the Joint Office of city and county homeless services.
The county plans to spend just under a third of that money — $32 million — on supportive housing, which combines affordable housing with comprehensive services like case management or rental assistance to help people to stay at home.
Related: Portland homeless advocates and providers want to house 3,000 people by the end of the year
County officials said the money will fund the creation of up to 1,700 new supportive apartments. About 370 of those units will be available in 2023 and about 220 will be built in 2024, according to acting Joint Office director Shannon Singleton.
Another $27 million — 25% of total taxes available for this year — will go to housing, said Yesenia Delgado, who oversees tax money for Multnomah County. It will fund over 2,000 year-round accommodation beds, which include motel rooms, group shelters and village-style shelters.
In total, county officials say they plan to fund nearly 2,700 shelter beds in the coming fiscal year, which runs from late June to early July 2023. The most recent tally of The county’s homeless population, done on one night this January, found about 5,200 homeless people in Multnomah County, up from 4,000 in 2019. Many experts say the 2022 numbers are likely an undercount.
In total, the budget represents $3.3 billion in spending – the largest spending plan in Multnomah County’s history. The county said it was the first time in six years that departments weren’t asked to make cuts, thanks in part to money from the U.S. federal bailout and better-than-expected revenue from the county. county business income tax.
Multnomah County residents can weigh in on the budget at a June 1 hearing. The final budget should be adopted two weeks later.