The supportive housing tax built to address chronic homelessness in the Portland metro region has failed to meet its initial goals for its first fully-funded year.
The measure, overseen by Metro Regional Government and passed by voters in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties in 2020, uses a tax on high-income households to fund a litany of programs crafted to help transition houseless people into permanent, reliable housing. Those programs included subsidized housing with on-site substance abuse treatment or behavioral health support, funding for transitional shelter beds, employment programs, and other tools to help keep formerly homeless residents housed for the long term.
Funding from this tax first reached counties in July 2021. At its onset, the program boasted a goal to move 2,400 households into permanent housing and add 700 shelter beds by June 2022. Metro's annual report on the supportive housing tax released Wednesday, however, shows the program fell short of its ambitious year one goals.
According to Metro, the fund was only able to get 1,600 people into permanent housing within its first year.
The program also created 514 new permanent shelter beds across the tri-county region, adding to 227 new short-term, seasonal shelter beds to reach a total of 741 total beds. The fund did overshoot its mission to prevent 1,000 people from slipping into homelessness: According to the Metro report, funding was used to keep 9,200 people from being evicted.
The lag in overall people housed could be due to the program's slow rollout among county governments. In a press release announcing the annual report's findings, Metro noted that a vast majority of people housed through the fund moved into housing during the fourth quarter of the first year.
"This shows that the counties' work building internal capacity and expanding their service provider networks in the first nine months is paying off," Metro's press release reads.
Metro spokesperson Nick Christensen further explained the missed goals in a call with the Mercury.
"It was challenging to hire people in first year of this program," said Christensen. "2021 was a hard year for hiring across industries. So getting the program staffed up and training people—that really ramped up in fourth quarter."
The majority of the housing placements occurred in Multnomah County, which got 1,129 people into permanent housing. Clackamas County housed 170, while Washington County got 340 people in housing in the first year.
The Metro measure promises to place 5,000 chronically homeless individuals into supportive housing and help 10,000 households at risk of homelessness retain permanent housing by 2031.
Metro celebrated the annual report's findings in its Wednesday press release and did not acknowledge the program's mission shortfalls.
"We've made huge strides," said Metro Council President Lynn Peterson. "In the first year of a 10-year effort, we're well on our way to our goal This is what happens when we collaborate as a region."