Multnomah County launched a new program today that incentivizes landlords to offer vacant apartments to houseless Portlanders. The county plans to do so by offering to pay one year’s rent, a damage repair guarantee, and access to service providers via a 24/7 phone line through 211.
County Chair Deborah Kafoury said the county set aside $4 million for the program from the 2020 Metro homeless services measure.
“No apartment should sit unoccupied while our neighbors are fighting for survival outside,” Kafoury said.
The county says anyone who applies before June 30 will be eligible for the yearlong rent, damage repair guarantee and quick access to providers.
County officials did not immediately say whether there was a cap to the number of units it could fund.
Shannon Singleton, interim director of the Joint Office of Homeless Services, says the office has been working for months on the program and “we’re looking to bring in as many units as possible.” The county expects to pay market rent for the units, Singleton says, so if, for instance, the average unit rent is $1,400 a month, the county could fund 235 units for a year with the $4 million (not counting the damage repair guarantee.)
When asked if there was a cap to the rent the county would be willing to pay per month per unit, a staffer from the Joint Office, Bill Boyd, said they “were looking to find units that are ‘broadly reasonable’ in rent….I would say that rents that seem way out of line with market rate, we would talk to that interested landlord and explain why it wouldn’t work. We haven’t settled on the exact metrics yet.”
Two months ago, a group of housing providers launched a campaign, the #3000Challenge, that urged county and city leaders to house 3,000 homeless Portlanders in vacant units, such as motels and apartment complexes, using master leases, rent assistance and other tools. When asked if this program was inspired by the advocates’ challenge, Kafoury said, “We see them working nicely together.”
Kafoury says the county and the Joint Office have received an “outpouring” of support from their providers to help move tenants into the units once they become available.
Landlords can apply here.