Keeping in touch: Notes from the Mayor

Mayor Lucy VinisThis blog aims to nurture our conversation and understanding of the issues before us. Every week, I will provide a weekly update on the activities in the city government, my activities as mayor, and brief reflections on progress, opportunities and challenges. You are invited to respond with reactions, insights and questions. We do this work together.

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Oct 15

October 15, 2021

Posted on October 15, 2021 at 11:02 AM by Niyah Ross

Council meetings this week focused on two top priorities: The Community Safety Initiative (CSI) and the Housing Implementation Pipeline (HIP).   

Monday’s meeting was the second meeting to review the program priorities in the CSI in preparation for upcoming meetings of the budget committee.  As you will recall, the CSI was initially funded in fiscal year 2019 with $8.6 million “bridge” funding to enable the City to get started on an array of investments in police staffing,  services for homeless adults and at-risk youth, the 911 Center and ambulance transport.  The payroll tax that was approved by Council to provide on-going CSI investments has now been collected for two quarters of 2021 and raised $2.7 million that can be allocated to CSI projects.   

There has been much community interest in a possible re-allocation of the funds within the CSI as reflected in the protests in 2020, and more recently in surveys, listening sessions and community conversations conducted city staff. The re-visited community engagement has confirmed the original allocations.  Homelessness is still a top concern, as is the recognition of the need for greater mental health services.  Consistently, members of the public want the safety system to invest in alternatives to dispatching uniformed police officers when a mental health provider or social work approach would be more appropriate.  Finally, there is strong interest in youth prevention programs.  The initial need that inspired the CSI persists: police are either unable to respond to calls for service in a timely way or at all, and that absence of service has created tension and frustration in the community, and negatively impacts the police who are unable to keep up with the demand. 

Councilors discussed the importance of supporting the mental health and well-being of police as well as the community as whole; focused on creating a culture and capacity that enables the most appropriate personnel to respond to each situation; and strongly supported investment in prevention with programs directed toward youth.  Specific funding allocations will be discussed at the budget committee. 

On Wednesday, Council was updated on the development of the Housing Implementation Plan.  The HIP is a new effort to coordinate and integrate all of the work the City undertakes along the entire continuum from addressing the shelter needs of the unhoused, to investing in affordable and market rate housing.  The goal is to understand the system as a whole to help prioritize our investments and programs for a five-year period, Fiscal Years 23-27.   The HIP projects a goal to create 6000 new units in that five-year timeframe, of which just under 2,000 are already forecasted to be either funded or planned but contingent on additional resources.  That includes permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless people who need services along with housing, affordable housing that is publicly subsidized; mixed income housing; and market rate housing.  In addition, the plan forecasts an additional 325 shelter beds on top of the 250 estimated to be completed this year, FY 22. 

The work ahead is to determine how the remaining 4,000 units are constructed.  There are many related conversations: our work on growth monitoring will inform land availability and the implementation of HB 2001 will be reflected in more “middle” housing types, particularly duplexes.  Council has already reduced the barriers to building ADUs. Council has a number of economic tools available to invest in a broad range of housing including the income from the Construction Excise Tax, the MUPTE (Multiple Unit Property Tax Exemption, reduced or forgiven System Development Charges, federal CDBG and HOME funds for affordable housing, and state low income housing tax credits).  The staff will return with a discussion of two possible investment opportunities including a City Fee and potential investment to incentivize building housing downtown. 

Finally, I attended my first meeting of the Local Government Affairs Council of the Environmental Protection Agency this week.  The group will divide into four subcommittees on Climate and Air Quality, Environmental Justice, Water, and Healthy Communities.  My colleagues on the committee come from cities across the country and bring a wealth of experience – I have high hopes for discussions to come which will inform EPA policies and have a direct impact on the work we do in Eugene.