PORTLAND, Ore. -- Leaders from the City of Portland and Multnomah County came together Friday, joining their cohorts from communities across the country in a National Housing Week of Action.
The effort took aim at President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut nearly $8 billion from the budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Leaders said it’s a move that, by their calculations, would result in Oregon receiving $80 million less in federal affordable housing funding each year. Multnomah County, they said, would lose out on $20 million annually.
“It truly is a humanitarian crisis to be faced with these sorts of cuts,” said Michael Buonocore, executive director of Multnomah County’s A Home for Everyone program.
“We are especially concerned about our ‘Housing Choice’ voucher participants,” he said. “We’ve got 3,000 people on a waiting list that is frozen now, and we have [9,000] people renting apartments with subsidy from us, and if that subsidy was reduced or cut off, they would not be able to stay.”
Mayor Ted Wheeler said another demographic that faces drastic cuts to low-cost housing options are veterans.
“The White House budget includes no new VASH vouchers,” he said, referring to Veterans Affairs Supporting Housing. “That should be unacceptable to every American.”
Wheeler, alongside Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and State Representative Lew Frederick, condemned what they say has become a routine in Washington.
“The federal government has been pulling back on its support for workforce and lower income housing for decades, and local government keeps increasing its resources to fill the void, but we're at a point where we're just too deep in the hole,” said Mayor Wheeler. “We don’t have enough resources at the local level.”
One resource the city does have at its disposal is the $250 million affordable housing bond, approved by voters in November.
Back in January, the city used some of that money to purchase the Ellington apartment complex in Northeast Portland and subsidize rents to keep low-income families in their homes.
After that, the mayor put a hold on spending the funds until a committee could identify the best options for that money.
He said that committee is set to present its recommendations in October.
The city’s strategy with that money moving forward, though, would look very different if President Trump’s budget passes.