Voters in the Portland, Oregon metro region approved Measure 26-210 on May 19, raising money for supportive housing services for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness. The Supportive Housing Services Program will provide wraparound services, including case management, mental health care, addiction and recovery treatment, job training, housing assistance, and culturally specific services.
Beginning on January 1, 2021, the program will be funded through two new taxes. The first is a 1% tax for both resident and non-resident income earned within the tax district’s regional boundaries on incomes over $200,000 per year for couples and $125,000 for individuals. For couples making $201,000, the tax would be $10. The measure also imposes a 1% business profits tax on businesses with gross receipts of $5 million or more. Combined, the two revenue streams would raise an estimated $248 million per year for the next ten years.
The framework for this plan was developed by service providers, business leaders, and advocates led by the Here Together Coalition. Endorsers included local sports teams such as the Portland Trail Blazers, health care providers such as Kaiser Permanente, and a wide range of local politicians.
NLIHC’s 2019 issue brief, Affordable Housing Wins: Leveraging Lessons from 2018 Ballot Initiatives for Future Efforts, provides a look at recent ballot initiatives and draws important lessons for what makes a successful ballot initiative. Ballot initiatives are increasingly used by advocates, low-income residents and allies to support affordable housing. This is a powerful strategy to push past the reticence of elected and officials and instead call on voters to ensure a safe, accessible, affordable, and decent home for everyone. Win or lose, ballot initiative campaigns represent real progress in mobilizing advocacy resources, increasing awareness, and moving the needle on public opinion. Each ballot initiative brings new resources and allies, and each campaign provides a roadmap for future work in other communities.