Portland Putting Housing Crisis On Backs Of Landlords

Allowable Fees Under The Landlord Tenant Act

A Portland landlord shares her opinion.

By Sue Scott

The city is using legislation and threats of huge penalties, fines and fees to put the housing crisis on the backs of those who provide housing.

The proposed regulations for tenant screening and security deposits are 40-plus pages of verbiage and mandate huge fines only to rental providers. This will greatly increase risks for landlords.

It’s not fair.

Worse, the new proposals hit small investors hardest. That’s all wrong too. It is the mom-and-pop Portland landlords who are consistently most flexible with tenants. The big out-of-state providers are already here, and evictions are part of best practices for them in protecting their investors and bottom lines.

There are no risks here for the city. It makes the rules and dictates fines. It doesn’t offer to share the risk and gives us little or no respect Senate Bill 608, which imposed statewide rent control and prohibited landlords from ending most leases flew through all public hearings, and its legislative backers accepted no changes. While the proposed screening and security deposit regulations have had some small changes, it seems the policy as a whole is going down this same intractable path, which will only make the market worse for renters.

Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly especially seems to enjoy pitting renters against the “evil” landlords that maintain the homes and safe places renters live in. We are apparently the biggest easy target. As landlords, we do not have enough political power or numbers. The us against them attitude needs to stop. A workable and sustainable solution needs to be a shared solution.

Writers of these regulations should include all sides. Tenants, housing providers (large and small), financial institutions, and non-profits. The changes must result in sustainable housing for our great city.

And what about property rights?

The city now says we must accept applicants who may not be able to afford the rent or are felons in our properties.

Felons are not a protected class, like race, gender, religion, families with kids, sexual preferences, service dogs, disabilities etc. etc. And tenants who are financially vulnerable are a great risk for any landlord.

As property owners, responsible for the debts and expenses related to those properties, we should have protected rights to assess the financial risk we are willing to take. We pay taxes, mortgages, repairs, legal and all other costs. It takes several years to break even on most properties. For most of us, the big financial rewards come only at the end of our careers and are part of our retirement.

There are more equitable, broader-based solutions that the city should consider.

I was asked what broad-based ideas I suggest so here is my list

  • Check out how Mercy Housing does affordable housing. Provide job resources, job training, life skills classes, budgeting help etc., so tenants are successful and have long term tenancies.
  • Provide more housing. Incentivize developers, especially “impact investors”, (community-oriented investors who take smaller returns and no public subsidies, but still provide affordable units in their projects). City should give commitments priority in development, decreased development costs and hurdles, or tax credits.
  • Spreading this housing solution throughout the city is a much better result than just building large tenements is “poor” neighborhoods, destined to be future ghettos, and shunned by all. Europe has this kind of model; it works well and makes for a healthier and more diverse city.
  • City should create more home ownership. Help residents become or stay home owners. Grants for down payments, repairs, and to develop ADUs (alternate dwelling units).
  • City should legislate that employers follow same rules as landlords; hire felons.
    The State could expunge felony records when there has been no new offenses after 3 or 7 years.
  • Legislate ways to reign in price increases at grocery stores, pharmacies, health insurances, and schools doing business in our city or state.
  • Encourage/incentivize subsidized tenants to respect the properties they live in. Encourage them to work more, or volunteer, or when successful, perhaps do peer counseling. . This would leave more money to help others.

Build more housing.  Stop Rent Control, it’s only driving out investors.

About the Portland landlord author:

A Portland landlord opinion: Portland Putting Housing Crisis On Backs Of Landlords
Sue Scott is a Portland landlord and owns 25 rental housing units in Portland. She lives in Happy Valley. She wrote this letter to Oregonlive.com.