An obvious response to the housing crisis facing Oregon is to build more of it, especially if it is affordable to people of modest means. Federal dollars are available to encourage developers to build affordable housing, but a clause in the Oregon Constitution effectively forbids any local tax dollars from contributing to housing projects unless the resulting housing is 100 percent publicly owned.
The Oregon Legislature passed a bipartisan measure to make an exception for affordable housing projects, and referred the constitutional amendment to voters as Ballot Measure 102.
Measure 102 would allow cities and counties to combine money from local bond measures with federal dollars to construct affordable housing in partnership with private businesses and nonprofit organizations. Voter approval of any bond measures would be required, and the total indebtedness would be capped at one-half of 1 percent of the value of all property in the city or county. The measure also would require annual audits and public reporting of bond expenditures.
The legislation referring the amendment to voters passed the Oregon House unanimously, and passed the Senate 24-5. Gov. Kate Brown and her opponent, Republican State Rep. Knute Buehler, both support it.
While a general ban on using public money for private benefit is a good idea, this is a reasonable exception. It allows local governments to help construct affordable housing without being required to own and manage it, and it will help address the severe housing shortage now plaguing the state, including Ashland. We recommend voters pass Ballot Measure 102.