City of Portland & Multnomah County Letter on Inclusion of Housing in Build Back Better Proposal

October 22, 2021

The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
Senate Majority Leader
United States Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House of Representatives
United States Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi,

The Portland Metropolitan region has been disproportionately affected by the ongoing affordable housing crisis, this has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting unstable economy. The lack of steady federal investment in affordable housing —temporary and long-term—has forced many in our community to live outside. The City of Portland, Multnomah County, and region have made financial commitments to affordable housing and houselessness services. We need the congress to seize this opportunity to bring federal resources to this issue.

Our once bustling parks are lined with tents and temporary shelters. Businesses, large and small, face the regular occurrence of houseless people taking shelter in doorways and overhangs. The influx of our neighbors living on the streets has intensified issues surrounding mental and physical health, cleanliness, and public safety. Community leaders are working nonstop to address this ever-growing dilemma. The long-term effects of the pandemic have required new strategies to revitalize and support the people of our community. The problem, however, continues to grow larger in scale and urgency. We do not have enough resources to effectively resolve this matter without federal support.

The housing crisis is a bipartisan issue that affects all of us. As leadership in Washington negotiate President Biden’s Build Back Better package, we must protect and prioritize funding for affordable housing, rental vouchers and programs that serve the houseless. This reconciliation bill offers us an opportunity to nationally reinvest in our communities. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is imperative to advancing economic and racial equity. We support our federal delegation in calling for the inclusion of housing as infrastructure. If housing dollars are cut, we will see a rise in homelessness across the country. Local communities, like ours, need you to have our back.

We ask that you retain these provisions in the Budget Reconciliation package.

  • Increase funding for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Programs, such as the Continuum of Care Programs: the Supportive Housing Program, the Shelter Plus Care Program, and the Single Room Occupancy Program, as well as the Emergency Shelter Grant Program.
  • Expand rental assistance by at least $180 billion.
  • Expand and preserve the supply of homes affordable to renters with the lowest incomes.
    • Expand the National Housing Trust Fund – at least $45 billion.
       
    • Repair Public Housing – at least $70 billion.
  • Increase resources for behavioral health and addiction services and capital investment.
  • Include the Decent Affordable and Safe Housing for All (DASH) Act to increase the Low-Income Housing Tax (LIHTC) and create a Middle-Income Housing Tax Credit (MIHTC).
  • Increase flexibility for rental assistance funds:
  • Increased funds allowance for administration of program dollars; neither community- partners nor grantees are fully compensated for their overhead costs.
  • Standardize self-attestation; the supplemental documentation required is a barrier for many applicants.
  • Provide rules as early as possible to ensure grantees and community-based partners can facilitate intakes of applications.

Congress cannot forget the importance and widespread impact this opportunity presents. As leaders in our community, we see the bearings of the housing crisis every day. We see our community struggling, and we are unable to provide them with adequate help. We have come together, as a City and County, to address these problems to the best of our abilities. We have worked together, using all the tools at our disposal, to make this better. Now we need Congress to come together and work with us.


Sincerely,

Ted Wheeler
Mayor

Deborah Kafoury
County Commission Chair

Carmen Rubio
Commissioner

Sharon Meieran
District 1 Commissioner

Dan Ryan
Commissioner

Susheela Jayapal
District 2 Commissioner

Joann Hardesty
Commissioner

Jessica Vega Peterson
District 3 Commissioner

Mingus Mapps
Commissioner

Lori Stegmann
District 4 Commissioner