Housing, courthouse, top board’s 2016 legislative agenda

January 29, 2016

Deputy Government Relations Director Chris Fick addresses the board as Government Relations Director Claudia Black (right) looks on.

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners Thursday approved its agenda for the 2016 legislative session.

The county is tracking 80 of the more than 260 bills introduced in the state’s short session, said Government Relations Director Claudia Black. These include proposals to raise the minimum wage, license tobacco retail outlets, phase out coal-fired power plants and increase funding for summer youth employment programs.

Commissioners are supporting proposed legislation that could ease the housing crunch for low-income county residents.

Senate Bill 1582 would allocate $40 million in affordable housing funds approved last session. The bill would prioritize minority and rural communities and areas with a high percentage of families paying more than 30 percent of their income in rent.

Lifting the local preemption on inclusionary housing is also back this year. Several proposed bills would require local governments to offer incentives to builders that set aside a percentage of new units for affordable housing. This year the legislation includes rental units as well.

“That would be a big victory,” said Chris Fick in the Office of Government Relations. “There are 10,000 units scheduled to come online in Portland in the next several years.”

Other proposed housing legislation includes a bill that would require landlords to give their tenants 90 days notice for rent hikes of five percent or more, similar to a rule passed by the City of Portland last year. And a bill that would provide $10 million for emergency housing assistance statewide.

“There's going to be a lot moving on the housing front, but hopefully a lot of good bills that can help address the crisis that the metro area and other areas around the state are facing,” said Fick.

Multnomah County is also backing legislation to offset the cost of replacing its seismically-unsafe courthouse.

“The courthouse has been a priority for a very long time now, and our ask in 2017 would be $93 million,” said Government Relations Director Black. “But we have been asked by legislative leadership to identify alternatives for funding.”

House Bill 4093 would allow the county to add a surcharge of up to 15 percent  to civil court filings and allow the court to add a surcharge to parking and traffic tickets to make user fees part of the funding package.

Chair Deborah Kafoury will testify on the bill Monday.