Baseball vs Housing: Chuck Currie, Interfaith Homeless & Housing

Tom Boland (
Fri, 16 Jul 1999 22:49:55 -0700 (PDT)


Date: Tue, 29 Jun 1999 14:15:05 -0700
From: "Chuck Currie" <>

Baseball vs Housing

from the Spring edition of These Homeless Times, a publication of the
Interfaith Homeless and Housing Coalition

by Chuck Currie, IHHC Coordinator

The 1999 Oregon Legislature has been in session now since early January. For
the 150,000 low-income families in Oregon that have difficulty affording
basic housing the session has not yet produced any new funding to help them
survive. To help them ignore their pain, however, the Legislature seems
poised to help buy Portland a baseball team.

A broad coalition of housing developers, banks, religious organizations and
local elected officials have been pressing the Legislature to set aside $160
million for the Housing Trust Fund. Combined with the $15.5 million
currently in the Fund the new allocation would bring the total to $175.5
million. The money wouldn't actually be spent. The state would use the
interest from the Fund, approximately $12.28 million, to construct new
affordable housing units for urban and rural low-income workers, the
disabled, young families, people being treated for mental illness, people in
alcohol or drug recovery, low-income students, first-time homebuyers, and
farm workers.  Millions more would be leveraged from other governments and
private business.

Almost everyone in the LegislatureóRepublican and Democrat alikeóunderstands
that Oregon faces a real housing crisis. In Portland, housing prices have
jumped 68 percent and wages haven't kept pace anywhere in the state.

But no money has materialized to fix the problem and advocates have been
told there might not be any.

The Legislature does, however, seem ready to pass a bill that would set
aside $100 million to renovate Civic Sta-dium if a major league baseball
team would relocate to Portland. The money would come from the Oregon
Lottery with the argument that bringing baseball to Portland fits with the
Lottery's mission of economic develop-ment. So we might get a baseball team
when everyone is told there isn't funding available for housing and other
important issues like education. Perhaps they'll have cheep seats available
for homeless Oregonians.

What a lot of people fail to realize is that housing development is a great
economic development tool. The National Association of Home Builders, for
example, estimated that the construction of 1,000 single-family homes put
2448 people to work full time for a year. Wages of 79.4 million would be
produced and $42.4 million would be collected in new revenue. One thousand
multi-family units produce 1,030 jobs, $33.5 million in wages, and $17.8
million in revenue.

Housing isn't quite as sexy as base-ball, but it is a much bigger investment
in the lives of Oregon's families. So far the only major housing bill that
has passed the Oregon House would repeal Portland's affordable housing
preserva-tion ordinance. If passed by the Senate and signed by the
C;overnor, nearly 5,000 elderly and disabled citizens would be at risk of

Maybe we could bring a new hockey team to town to cheer them up.

The call for affordable housing is a statewide concern. Recent counts of
homeless people show that there are at least as many people living on the
streets in rural communities as in the Portland-area. Jefferson County isn't
serving 81.5 percent of families eligible for housing assistance because the
resources aren't available. Jefferson County is not aloneó87 percent of
families in need in Benton County go without help and 98.3 percent of
families in Wheeler County are turned away. Across the state, 71.8 percent
of low-income families do not receive the support they need.

All of these figures come from the US Department of Housing and Urban
Development. Making public policy is a series of social and moral choices.
The decisions made in the Legislature reflect what we value and hold dear.
With the perspective of history we often criticize the days before Governor
Tom McCall when the Legislature gave tax breaks to polluters. It took
McCall's forceful presentation of a different moral vision for how our state
ought to be to bring change. Gov. John Kitzhaber and the members of the
Legislature now have their chance to make history.

The choice before us seems clear: do we value the lives of Oregon's families
over the financial needs of out-of-state businessmen looking to make a
profit through baseball. Do we support corporate welfare over investment in
our housing needs? Given a chance the voters would support the needs of our

If the Legislature really needs to play ball I'll challenge them to a good I
game at any city park in Portland. It will be the politicians vs. the
home-less. We can make a friendly wager on Oregon's future.

Legislators can be reached at 1-800-332-2313.

Chuck Currie
Office of Community Outreach
First United Methodist Church
1838 SW Jefferson Street
Portland, OR 97201
503-228-3195 ext 215

Goose Hollow Family Shelter * Interfaith Homeless and Housing Coalition


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