A Deep Dive on Multnomah County Measure 26-238
Hello APANO Community,
In recent days, we’ve received requests for more information on our “No” endorsement for Measure 26-238 this special district election. We hear you, and we value you and your voice. Houselessness, eviction, and rising rent costs—particularly since the pandemic began—are key issues for APANO, and understandably, we recognize there is confusion around our stance.
We wanted to take a moment to provide context for our position on the measure. We are one of more than 70 organizations, business, elected officials and community leaders opposing this measure. We have shared our reasoning in recentnews, but we’d like to take a deeper dive in this post.
First and foremost: Eviction representation is a vital service that should be offered to all renters.
Over the past few years, APANO has supported our community by providing rental assistance throughout the pandemic, organizing tenants in East Portland apartment buildings, and continuing to develop and navigate our community into affordable housing. Working towards stable housing for our communities is a key component of our community development work.
In tandem with that work, we focus on community wealth building so that we can begin to break the cycle of poverty. We run home ownership classes, provide small businesses with coaching and grants, and offer workforce development opportunities so community members can start earning a living wage.
We strongly support eviction representationbut could not support the taxing method in which Measure 26-238 would pay for these services for a few reasons. To reiterate, we support and know first-hand the need for eviction representation. It is sorely lacking in our communities and we will continue to advocate for and offer support to renters.
Our main areas of concern are:
- Tax Structure: This measure does not explicitly exclude the typical federal exemptions of capital gains.
For small business owners selling equipment or the business itself, for homeowners selling their home, if we pull money out of our retirement accounts when we retire, we will be taxed an additional .75% or more depending on an unknown future rate. This vagueness makes it very difficult to do financial planning.Real life example: We hold culturally specific home ownership classes with the goal of building intergenerational wealth. When a client sells that home they are taxed .75% or more, which could be thousands of dollars out of the pocket of families who are not wealthy.
- Limited English Proficiency and Fines: We work with many folks who have limited English proficiency. In our experience with these members of our community, these fees and fines are a massive burden due to the lack of culturally specific outreach, education, and language access. Clients come to us because they got a notice and didn’t know what it was. They were then fined and penalized. For the recent Metro Supportive Housing tax, the average penalty before they were waived was $135 plus interest.
Real life example: An immigrant from Vietnam may owe a few dollars of capital gains tax. They did not know that in order to pay that tax they would need to go to a separate city website offered only in English or Spanish. They were then assessed fines and interest for more than they owed originally.
- High Administrative Cost and Variable Rate: The City of Portland’s Revenue Division estimates the cost of administering the tax could consume more than 50% of the revenue. The recent Supportive House Measure has an admin cap of 5% built into the measure and the Portland Arts Tax is capped at 11.5% admin rate. Nonprofits are also generally limited to admin rates of 10-15%. Why would we allow public dollars to greatly exceed the administrative costs in collection when the nonprofit community based organizations (CBOs) these dollars will fund are still limited to low admin rates?
Real life example: An APANO staff member recently filed their taxes. They have some money invested in a mutual fund, which would result in a $2 tax if this measure passes. It would likely cost the county more than $2 to collect that from them. “I am not wealthy and everything I paid went to administrative costs and not to actually representing tenants. What was the point of paying?”
Notably, the tax rate is variable, so in the future the rate could be increased without additional voter approval. There is no maximum amount to which this could be raised.
- A Lack of Root Cause Work: This measure does not address the root causes of evictions and houselessness. We believe social services are underfunded because corporations do not pay their fair share. This measure explicitly excludes corporations from paying, but not small business owners.
We believe that one of the primary root causes of eviction is housing affordability. We should continue to invest in regional housing measures to increase production of safe, affordable housing and support other policies that boost housing production.Real life example: Nike or Comcast doesn’t have to pay this tax, but Fubonn does.
We want to strongly reiterate that we support eviction representation.
There already exists a progressive, voter-approved tax measure that has a 5% administrative cap in place in the Metro Supportive Housing measure. This measure, passed in 2020, placed a 1% marginal personal income tax on taxable income above $125,000 for individuals and $200,000 for those filing jointly and a 1% business income tax on net income for businesses with gross receipts above $5 million.
In the first half of this year, Multnomah County underspent those funds by $22.3 million, which is more than 26-238 hopes to raise this year. We believe that funding from the Supportive Housing measure should be dedicated to eviction representation rather than creating a new specific tax measure that impacts our community more directly.
We know legislative measures and the legislative process is a lot. There is so much to know and sift through. We welcome the opportunity to hear from community members about concerns and questions. If you’d like to attend an informational session, please let us know here. We’ll be in touch with more information to folks who complete the form.
Thank you for sharing your concerns. Thank you for being here, and thank you for your care for our community.
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