Three ballot referendum questions in Portland intended to increase affordable housing in the city are drawing criticism from a group opposing the proposed rent control measures.
Building A Better Portland kicked off a campaign Friday to defeat the questions.
Portland has a chronic shortage of low-income and workforce housing units. Questions C, D and E, are designed to help address that. Question C would also create what advocates call a “Green New Deal” for Portland that would, among other things, require building projects that receive $50,000 or more in funding from the city to meet up-to-date environmental standards.
Speakers at Friday’s press conference said they support affordable housing and environmental sustainability, but feel the measures would do the opposite of their intent. Building a Better Portland Campaign Manager David Farmer said the impact of the three questions would be to “stop the construction of new housing,” including both affordable and market-rate housing.
“The market,” he said, “will be frozen in place."
Building a Better Portland President Ethan Boxer-Macomber also criticized supporters of the ballot questions for putting them before voters rather than going through the city council.
"I personally really take a lot of comfort in knowing that the elected officials I sent to the council are there to make these sorts of decisions in an open forum and a balanced public discussion," he said. "That's not what we have here. We have, I think, a small group of people trying to write policy in a vacuum."
Em Burnett, a volunteer with referendum organizer People First Portland, says a lot of important policy decisions are made by the council late at night when people are tired and the public is no longer in attendance.
"This is when the lawyers who get paid to be there and the developers who get paid to be there speak on behalf of development that hurts people who live here and everyone else is at home and that is not a good process," Burnett says.