Multnomah County short almost 30,000 units of affordable housing
Author: Jon Bell – Staff Reporter, Portland Business Journal
Posted: August 13, 2018

Multnomah County is currently short at least 29,000 units of affordable housing, and the number of homeless in the area is likely much higher than the latest numbers show.

Those are among the takeaways from a new report conducted by Portland State University's School of Business MBA capstone team. The study, called "An Analysis of Homelessness & Affordable Housing in Multnomah County, 2018," came at the request of the nonprofit Oregon Harbor of Hope.

That organization, founded by developer Homer Williams, has sought innovative ways to tackle the city's homelessness challenges.

"We wanted a fresh look at the homeless problem, and the capstone team report offers some real insight,” said Don Mazziotti, executive director of Oregon Harbor of Hope, in a release. “We realize that the problem is bigger than we thought. We don’t have a handle on the true number of homeless, or just how much this is costing the city and its taxpayers.”

The report wasn't able to fully nail down a number for that latter point. However, it notes that other communities estimate that homeless services can cost between $10,000 and $150,000 per person, per year.

The team behind the report also found that the number of homeless in the area is likely higher than the regular Point-in-Time Housing and Homelessness survey reports.

The latest numbers from the survey, conducted in 2017, showed that there were 4,177 homeless people on the night of Feb. 22. Almost 1,700 of those people were considered to be unsheltered; another 1,750 were in emergency shelters, and about 760 were in transitional housing.

According to the report, the survey didn't take into account people who might have been staying with family or friends or who were in jail or the hospital the night of the survey.

Additionally, the report found that the lack of affordable housing has a greater impact on seniors, people of color and residents with disabilities.

The report suggests that tackling the issue will require more collaboration between public and private entities, including developers, nonprofits and faith-based entities. It also notes that there are more than 42,000 unused bedrooms in the Portland metro area, rooms that could be used as rentals for people in need.