Testimony On Bill To Eliminate Oregon Ban On Rent Control

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Testimony began last week at the Oregon State Legislature on a bill, backed by the City of Portland, that would remove the state-wide ban on rental control and end no-cause evictions, according to several reports.

House Bill 2004 as proposed would prohibit a landlord from terminating month-to-month tenancy without cause except under certain circumstances with 90 days’ written notice and payment of relocation expenses. The bill would also repeal the statewide prohibition on city and county ordinances controlling rents, effectively allow cities to put rent control in place.

Portland passed a similar measure as a city ordinance earlier this year and landlords have filed suit to try and get it overturned.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler spoke in favor of the rent control bill at the legislature saying, “It returns the tools to the local government to allow us to be able to make our own decisions about what policies to implement,” according to koin.com.

Speaking out against the bill was Rental Housing Alliance of Oregon President Ron Garcia who said no cause evictions are a tool landlords use to create safe housing for other tenants and he especially takes issue with the bill forcing landlords to pay moving costs for people who are evicted.

“That essentially subsidizes bad behavior from tenants that are creating instability in the neighborhood and should be removed,” Garcia said.

Garcia shared more of his thoughts last month with Rental Housing Journal in his blog post called, “What Is A Professional Property Manager To Do In Portland Housing Crisis?”

Rent control and no-cause evictions

The testimony on House Bill 2004 drew dozens of Oregonian tenants and landlords last week to the state capitol where they spent almost six hours voicing polarized opinions about whether to do away with no-cause evictions statewide, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

The Democratic-supported proposal essentially expands similar, recently-adopted provisions within Portland city limits to the statewide level. Critics argue the bill could adversely affect Oregon’s affordable housing situation, which is largely instigated by short supply, while supporters say it’s an immediate fix for struggling households. Friday March 3 was the deadline to submit public testimony for HB 2004, according to opb.org.

Scores of landlords in addition to Garcia, testified too, pushing back against the notion they have too much power, according to oregonlive.com.  They argued no cause evictions allow them to get rid of bad tenants that make living difficult or uncomfortable for other renters. Just cause cases are hard to win, they said, against tenants accused of sexual harassment and other community nuisances.

Also, landlords shared stories about tenants who dealt drugs or committed other crimes that weren't prosecuted and therefore could not serve as justification for a just-cause eviction.

They said they would not have chosen to enter the market knowing that this regulation would limit their ability to save for retirement.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said increasing housing supply doesn't go far enough in protecting renters on the brink of losing their homes or in helping young families seeking stable living.

"The current rental market is failing too many Oregonians when it comes to predictability and sustainability," she said. "Today's conversation is about combating displacement."

Photo courtesy of MultifamilyNW.org.

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