Rent Control is Coming to Oregon, So Lawmakers Must Offer Direction and Resources

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Rent control is coming to Oregon, so Deborah Imse, executive director of MultiFamily NW, offers her thoughts and opinions and urges lawmakers to offer direction and resources.

By Deborah Imse
Multifamily NW

 The Oregonian/OregonLive Editorial Board offered several thoughtful suggestions regarding Oregon’s move toward statewide rent control (“Restrained rent control bill offers a temporary salve,” Feb. 17). We hope lawmakers in Salem are listening.

Whether renting or buying, we at Multifamily NW — the largest rental provider organization in Oregon — agree that the biggest reason homes are largely unaffordable is lack of supply. We need more from the legislature to address this issue. House Speaker Tina Kotek’s multifamily zoning bill is a good start, but it’s not nearly enough. To lower housing costs, policy makers statewide need to put more attention into increasing supply.

We also appreciate that The Oregonian called out the novel, untested nature of the rent-control method proposed in Senate Bill 608. No other state has implemented statewide rent control. And no other state has enacted a 7 percent increase plus inflation — as measured by the consumer price index. If state lawmakers choose to enact an approach that has never been implemented or tested anywhere else in the nation, it is crucial that the state also measure the impact and report back regularly to determine if investment in rental construction decreases. At Multifamily, we will track the effects of this policy on our membership.

The state should also monitor the impact of limiting notices to terminate tenancies — sometimes called “no-cause notices.” SB 608 allows termination of a lease for no cause in the first 12 months, but not after. “End-of-tenancy” notices help rental providers create safe rental properties by ensuring people who are harassing other residents can be removed, even if their actions don’t rise to the level of a for-cause eviction. It’s actually a form of tenant protection that serves our most vulnerable populations. So let’s also monitor the impact of limiting this tool.

In addition, if this truly is going to be a different kind of rent control in Oregon, it’s crucial that lawmakers commit to the 7 percent cap and ensure there is no ratcheting down. As Speaker Kotek has noted, this is a fragile compromise. Both sides are unhappy. And both sides will be working in the future to get more of what they want. How can we ensure that 7 percent doesn’t become 5 percent in the future, or lower? We would like to see lawmakers offer assurances to investors that Oregon is still a smart, predictable place to invest in the rental market. This will support efforts to increase supply.

Finally, Speaker Kotek has noted that this is one of four bills she plans to introduce to address housing problems in Oregon. One of those four may be a housing subsidy program, but the details have not yet emerged. We encourage lawmakers to look at programs like LIVE Denver, a low-income voucher equity program that is a public-private partnership with employers, foundations and the city.

Rent control is coming to Oregon. So, Oregon lawmakers need to offer the direction and resources necessary to measure the short-term and long-term impacts of this approach and show Oregonians that rent control offers all of the touted benefits, without the drawbacks.

About the author:

Deborah Imse is the executive director of MultiFamily NW, which represents individuals, families and businesses that provide more than 250,000 rental homes throughout Oregon.

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