The Portland City Council is getting ready to vote to fund the new Rental Services Office by assessing landlords an annual fee of $60 per unit to pay for the services, according to reports.
The Rental Services Office will help with the new rent-control measure passed by the Oregon Legislature, as well as the tenant-relocation services and other new measures passed by the Portland City Council.
The Portland City Council is expected to take up the fee at a meeting on Wednesday.
The Portland Oregonian estimated the new per-unit fee would raise about $3.9 million its first year.
A central element of the office is the promise that it will establish and monitor an accurate census of rental units in Portland. Landlords are to register their units on yearly tax filings.
According to the proposed ordinance, “The Portland Housing Bureau and the Revenue Division recommend an initial annual residential-rental-unit registration fee rate of $60. Thereafter, the fee would be adjusted annually for inflation or deflation using the Consumer Price Index West.
“Regulated affordable housing at 60 percent of the area median income and below would be exempt from the fee but would still be required to register residential rental units. With the average market rate rent in Portland at $1,425 per month, the fee equates to approximately one-third of one percent of the average Portland rent collected annually,” the proposal states.
The Portland City Council says the new fee would be effective with the 2019 tax year.
Cannabis funds had been providing some revenue
The Rental Services Office is responsible for contracting out funding for fair housing and landlord tenant services, developing code and administrative rules associated with local landlord-tenant law, processing exemptions to local mandatory relocation assistance, and providing technical assistance and information (in person, via email, and over the phone) to renters and landlords on general landlord-tenant law, according to the ordinance.
The ordinance says 54 percent of current funding for the Rental Services Office in the current fiscal year is supported by onetime general or onetime cannabis funds.
The Rental Services Office funding would support multiple programs and services including:
- Tenant Protections Team Program: The Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT) offers education and advocacy support to renters identified through their Renter’s Rights Hotline or referred by social service agencies, and facilitates fast-tracking to appropriate legal or health and human services. Partner agencies include Portland Defender, Self-Enhancement Inc., Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, and Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization.
- Fair Housing Enforcement Program: The Urban League facilitates a partnership with El Programa Hispano Católico, the Fair Housing Council of Oregon, and Legal Aid Services of Oregon to serve as cultural mediators between renters who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination and their assigned attorneys to assist them in navigating a smooth and supportive journey through the legal process.
- Renter’s Rights Hotline and Tenant Education: The Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT) provides a Renter’s Rights Hotline, workshops, and other means of educating renters about their rights. CAT also assists protected classes in Portland with fair housing issues, and offers intensive one-on-one renter counseling, assistance with letter writing on tenancy matters, and referral/consulting with Legal Aid Services of Oregon and/or Fair Housing Council of Oregon.
- Landlord-Tenant Legal Services: Legal Aid Services of Oregon provides intake, investigation, representation and referrals for fair-housing and landlord-tenant issues. This work is done in partnership with Native American Youth and Family Association, Self-Enhancement Inc., Urban League, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, and El Programa Hispano Cató
- Fair Housing Testing: The Fair Housing Council of Oregon conducts audit testing for potential violations of the Fair Housing Act. Testing identifies differential treatment or practices occurring in the marketplace, laying the foundation for further action in the form of services, regulation, or enforcement to affirmatively further fair housing law.