Mayor Ted Wheeler is planning to have the City of Portland launch a pilot program designed to help potential renters expunge criminal records in an effort to give them access to better housing options, according to reports.
In Oregon, violations, misdemeanors and low-level felonies can be expunged, according to the Oregon State Bar, and only after 10 years without another conviction. Prosecutors and victims may object to the expunction, according to Oregonlive.com.
Landlords are not the cause of the problem
Ron Garcia, president of the Rental Housing Alliance Oregon, a group of rental owners, said the proposal feeds into a narrative that landlords are the cause of the region’s housing problems.
And, he said in a statement, it will do little to relieve the broader shortage of affordable homes.
“Those that would otherwise qualify are left looking for still other vacancies,” he said in an email to the Oregonian. “It seems to follow that this policy does nothing to solve the housing crisis, but in fact creates additional demands that pressure the market even further into an upward cycle of rent hikes.”
Move to expunge criminal records for renters an uphill fight
Staff Attorney Sonja Good Stefani with the Metropolitan Public Defender’s Office Community Law Division told Fox12 news it’s an uphill battle for people with a criminal past.
“It’s very difficult to get out of public housing with a criminal record because Portland’s housing market is so tight right now and it’s so easy for landlords to just run a background check and if you’ve got anything on there, anything at all even arrests they’re just no we’re not going to rent to you because we have a million other people that we could rent to,” Good Stefani told the television station.
Good Stefani has been working extensively with Anderson through a similar program to what the City of Portland is piloting this year, giving free legal services to people living in public housing and a chance at expunging their criminal record.
In many cases, people in these programs can’t afford the fines or legal fees they’re facing either, so the partnerships give people the chance to the pay back the money through community service.
The city says it’s in the early stages of developing the program but plans to help roughly 100 households in similar situations to Anderson.