Portland Rental Property Owners Plan To Fight City Hall And State

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John Triplett's picture
Portland Rental Property Owners Plan To Fight City Hall And State

Portland rental property owners, managers, builders and building suppliers feel they are under attack from Portland City Hall and the Oregon Legislature and have mounted a campaign against proposed regulations.

The group has launched a website called More Housing Now! in support of more housing for all income levels and to “provide a voice of reason” on the issues.

Multifamily NW, Rental Housing Alliance Oregon (RHAO) and the Oregon Rental Housing Association (ORHA) formed More Housing Now!  to “mobilize and provide the first unified voice for landlords and property managers throughout the state,” the group says on the website. They say their work consists of lobbying, media relations and social media. The group says they plan to raise $2 million to “defeat inequitable initiatives pushed by activists and ill-informed politicians.”

Active voice to make people aware of the issues

“We are long-term stakeholders in the Oregon apartment market,” said Tom Brenneke, board president of the non-profit lobbying organization, More Housing Now!. “We have a great interest in a range of issues. Our hot buttons at the moment are rent control. And those kinds of issues that involve government intervention in our market, which has been a real problem.

“What we are trying to do is be an active voice and put pressure on politicians and constituents to make them aware of issues people just miss in the day’s news. They are important issues, though. They impact businesses. We cannot hire people because they have to travel too far or they don’t have housing. Those are big issues.

“We are very focused at the moment on things like rent control. That is an easy one to understand,” Brenneke said.

Oregon’s housing market is one of the hottest in the country, with more than 100 people moving to Portland alone each day. While overall this is a net-positive, more people are moving there than there are places for them to live, the group says on the website.

Highlights of Portland rental property owners issues and what they say

  • Portland rental property owners, managers, builders and building suppliers are under attack.
  • City government has made it prohibitively complicated to build more rental housing in the midst of an affordable housing crisis.
  • Activists have manipulated Portland City Hall and the Oregon State Legislature to create threats to property owners and managers, developers and their vendors.

Portland rental property owners face barriers to construction

“To compound matters, our local government hasn’t modernized with the changing times, and instead continues to create layers of bureaucracy that slow down the development of more housing for citizens in all income brackets,” the group says.

A recent study of the private and public sector by the National Apartment Association showed barriers to affordable apartment housing mean developers cannot get new units off the ground in many cities often due to high construction costs, land availability and costs, development fees, impact fees and community opposition. 

The NAA study also referred to Nimbyism (not in my backyard) groups showing up in 70 percent of the responses from public officials as being one of the top 3 problems. “Plenty of folks in city planning and city government know that the approval process is complex,” the NAA said in the report.

Some smart people at city hall, but pressure from aggressive tenant groups

“There are some smart people in the city,” Brenneke said. “Our mayor, look at the mayor and his credentials, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia.  He’s a smart guy. I know him well.

“But you’ve got a very aggressive, vocal group of tenant advocates in this town and state who don’t care about economics,” Brenneke said.

“I know darn well what the mayor and the smart people at the city really think. Deep down they understand rent control is not a solution. But they are buckling to these very, very loud, aggressive tenant advocates,” Brenneke said.

Six years to build new apartments makes it hard

“Fundamentally it’s a supply-and-demand issue. We have more people coming than we have housing for,” Brenneke said.

“Today’s luxury housing is tomorrow’s affordable housing. Half of my business is affordable housing. This is what I do. So I understand the mechanics, the regulations and the finance on affordable housing. It is incredibly expensive to build housing targeted toward a 50 percent AMI (area medium income) household. And you add on all the government bells and whistles they have to have – green this, green that, you know it’s expensive.”

He said the city can get its own way. And, much power has been handed over to neighborhood groups.

Brenneke said he is “the poster child” for the issue; one of his deals has been in the works for six years.

“I have been through two plans, multiple appeals, now at the court of appeals, etc. I should have had this deal delivered four years ago.

“I will be six years delivering apartments,” Brenneke said.

“Meantime, costs are going up and rents are actually coming down in the market. So my deal is getting tighter and tighter as we wait,” he said.

Resources:

The voice of reason providing More Housing Now! to Oregon

Oregon needs more housing now

Landlords prep for new fights with Portland City Hall, Oregon Legislature

 

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