Want affordable housing bonds? Voter approval is a must

ROGUE VALLEY, Ore.–  There were five state-wide measures on Oregon’s 2018 midterm ballot covering everything from taxes to illegal immigration enforcement policies and funding for abortion. Only one of the five is passing – Measure 102.

The measure asked voters if local governments should be allowed to issue bond measures for privately owned, affordable housing projects. Currently, it’s passing at 52 percent to 48 percent. Many candidates campaigned on affordable housing promising to address the housing crisis including local representatives in Jackson County.

However, local city and state officials disagree on how effective the measure will be.

“It’s another tool in the toolbox for providing affordable housing,” said Brian Sjothun, city manager for the City of Medford.

Measure 102 may be secure but for most cities including Medford, the effects won’t be immediate.

“We’re looking at a year before it would go before the voters,” said Sjothun. “If it’s approved it’d probably be another year or so before any bond sale or projects would be ready to go.”

Across the Rogue Valley, cities are looking for more affordable housing. Measure 102 could allow these cities to issue bond measures for privately owned, affordable housing projects.

In the City of Ashland, newly elected City Councilor Julie Akins sees this as a great opportunity.

“I think 102 is an excellent tool for the City of Ashland because we struggle with being able to build affordable housing and this gives us another tool,” she said.

However, not everyone agrees though.

“Even if a project got brought to the people, I don’t know if they would agree to – if they would vote for the bond,” said Kim Wallan.

Newly elected as Medford State Representative, Wallan says she doesn’t think Medford voters will agree to more taxes.

“You have to get voters on board to want to tax themselves for affordable housing projects in an environment where we already have a construction excise tax, we already have HUD, we already have Jackson County Housing Authority,” she said.

Both Democrats and Republicans may have different ideas on how to solve the housing crisis but ultimately, voters will decide based on the merits of each bond.

“I think that’s as it should be,” said Akins. “The voters need to decide how they want to spend their money.”

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