Mayor Katz agrees to meet with MACG on affordable housing and living wage

After years of refusals, Portland Mayor Vera Katz agreed to meet with the membership of the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good (MACG) to respond to the group’s call for increased affordable housing — constructed by workers paid a living wage.

MACG is a community organization made up of unions, churches and other groups allied around principles of economic and social justice.

Several unions in the construction trades belong to the group, and have focused their efforts on getting the Portland Development Commission to commit to increase affordable housing construction and to pay prevailing wage in those projects.

Several hundred MACG members turned out Dec. 4 at the First Unitarian Church in downtown Portland to hear a staged dialogue between Katz and a panel of questioners that included organizer Cherry Harris of Operating Engineers Local 701.

Katz told listeners she doesn’t really understand the issue of prevailing wage.

“Affordable housing ought to come with family-wage jobs,” Reverend Terry Moe of First United Methodist Church told Katz. “We really want to hold those two together.”

Katz said the city is strapped for funds right now, and that the PDC’s current method of financing construction — tax increment financing — would be insufficient to build the 10,000 units MACG is calling for.

But she suggested that greater funding for affordable housing could come via a new bond levy or real estate transfer tax. She also suggested MACG members should take their case to the Legislature. Asked by Moe if she would go with MACG members to Salem, Katz said she would not, at least until she’s out of office.

Katz’ term as mayor expires next year, and she’s not running for another.

Commissioner Jim Francesconi, who is running for mayor, was also invited to the Dec. 4 discussion, but declined to attend.

MACG also aired a proposal for a Sustainable Equity Fund funded by a tax on developer profits that would fund training for women and minority construction workers and help women and minority contractors become more competitive bidders. The proposal is meant to address the concern city officials are hearing from minority contractors that requirements to pay the prevailing wage put minority contractors at a competitive disadvantage.

Katz said she wanted to deal with MACG’s call for building 10,000 units of low-income housing before responding to the new proposal.

Home | About

© Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Inc.