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Healthy communities begin where we live — which is why we believe that everyone should have a decent, affordable place to call home. But in communities all over Oregon, far too many families are hurting due to rising housing costs. In Benton and Linn counties alone over 7,600 hardworking families struggle every month to make ends meet, pay the rent, and keep their home. Solving this crisis requires 4,730 more units of affordable rental housing in Benton County, and an additional 2,875 units in Linn County. But the required financing just isn’t there.

The good news is that many communities are willing and ready to use every available tool to solve this problem. But to do so, they need your help. For many years, communities everywhere have used general obligation bonds to finance and build critical infrastructure like roads, bridges and courthouses. General obligation bonds could also be used to help finance and build affordable homes. But for that to happen, we need voters to say "Yes" to Measure 102 and approve a required constitutional amendment.

The Oregon Constitution currently says that if general obligation bonds are used to build something, whatever is built has to be owned and operated by the government. That makes sense when talking about a bridge or a courthouse. But when it comes to housing, it doesn’t work. Vote "Yes" on Measure 102 and you will allow general obligation bonds to be used to finance and build affordable housing in partnership with affordable housing developers.

Voters will still have the final say in approving bonds for affordable housing. Measure 102 won’t change that. But vote yes on Measure 102, and local governments will have the ability to better address local housing needs through private-public partnerships with organizations experienced in housing and community development. We at Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services have 27 years of expertise in building, owning, and operating affordable housing, and there are many other organizations across Oregon that have the same expertise and are ready to address the current housing crisis. Vote "Yes" on Measure 102 and Oregon communities will have the flexibility to finance and build the housing that works best for them, while making other sources of support for affordable housing go farther.

At Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services we know the communities we serve want to do more to solve the housing crisis. Vote "Yes" on Measure 102, amend the Oregon Constitution, and give communities the flexibility needed to work toward what we all want: a community in which everyone has a healthy, affordable place to call home.

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Brigetta Olson is the  interim executive director for Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services; Jim Moorefield is the group's recently retired executive director.

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