Gotta rep for the PJ's

The politicians of Portland tell us that to clean up the tent camps all over town, there will have to be lots, lots more public housing. In fact, most of the time the political bobbleheads don't seem to want to do anything about the crisis except promise all the street people a nice little apartment some day.

Of course, that's never going to happen. It's way too expensive, and besides, a sizeable number of the homeless people have problems that are so severe that they couldn't function in any kind of normal housing. But yes, more public housing is going to have to be part of the solution.

Okay then. But a couple of stories that crossed my screen in the last few days paint a pretty unflattering picture of the agencies running the public housing in Portland.  The first of the stories was an update report by the city auditor about the city Housing Bureau's failure to live up to the promises it made to the taxpayers when they voted in new taxes for housing bonds. According to the auditor, the bureau still isn't doing what the city told the voters it was going to do when they approved all the new money:

The City promised voters in 2016 that a $258.4 million housing bond would serve seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities. Our 2019 audit found the Portland Housing Bureau didn’t adequately include those groups in project selection criteria, but the project selection criteria it used appeared to be applied consistently....

Bureau has not encouraged developers and property owners to attract seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities

We recommended the Bureau evaluate the effectiveness of actions to reach target populations for non-City-owned projects. This was important because the City was transitioning away from owning housing  and counting on other entities to meet the bond’s goals. At the time of the audit, the Bureau had not developed a plan to ensure groups the bond was intended to serve received housing.

The Bureau said it planned to require potential developers and property owners to do outreach to seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities, but it did not do so. Additional documents prepared by the Bureau as projects moved along also did not include each of the populations prioritized by the bond measure.

The old bond measure bait-and-switch – it's all too common around here. 

We recommended that the Housing Bureau emphasize ballot measure commitments and report on service to the priority communities. Initial information from the two completed projects showed they were serving seniors and people with disabilities, although those communities were not specifically targeted for help during project development. The Bureau said it plans to serve  seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities in an upcoming project.

It's been five long years since the bond measure passed. It's nice of the bureaucrats to finally sort of start getting around to maybe doing what they told the voters they would do. Sheesh.

Before I could compose a blog post on the auditor's review, along came this story in the Weed about more dismal moments in Portland public housing administration. This time, it was an outfit that used to be called the Housing Authority, before it decided it had to be renamed to sound more like a hipster restaurant or a hair salon. So now it's called "Home Forward." Whatever the name –

In June, the federal government announced it was issuing 70,000 emergency housing vouchers to help Americans displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic or other factors....

When HUD issued the vouchers in June, Home Forward (formerly known as the Housing Authority of Portland) got 476 of them to use across Multnomah County.

Home Forward executive director Michael Buonocore said his agency was “thrilled” to have the opportunity to deploy the emergency assistance to help people sleeping on the streets.

But WW has learned that since then, Home Forward has issued just 15 of the 476 vouchers the feds sent here.

That means just 3% of vouchers available locally have been put to work over the past six months.

If you think those tents are going to disappear any time soon, I've got an aerial tram to sell you. Portland is at least a decade away from recovery. And there is gong to have be a major, major shakeup of how business is done at City Hall before any real progress is made. 

Meanwhile, you wonder why we have a city Housing Bureau and also a "Home Forward." It sounds like more needless overhead, and another unsupervised pot of public money. Home Forward's website says:

We are not part of the city’s government structure.  However, we do serve the City of Portland, as well as Multnomah County, the City of Gresham, and other communities in east Multnomah County.  Portland, Multnomah County and Gresham each appoint commissioners to our board, and we work very closely with our jurisdictional partners on housing policy and programs....

Home Forward is a public corporation. We are a government agency that operates independently with its own board of commissioners, like the Port of Portland....

Oh. My. God.


  1. "Be afraid, be very afraid." Invasion of the Body Snatchers" 1978.


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