Pros­per­ous Ore­gon con­sid­ers his­toric renter pro­tec­tion law

Cape Breton Post - - Classifieds/lifestyles - BY AN­DREW SELSKY

Yesica Sanchez recently found a no­tice at­tached to the front door of her two-bed­room apart­ment that said her rent was al­most dou­bling. The di­vorced mother held the pa­per in her hand in a state of shock.

“We wanted to faint. Af­ter I pay all of my bills, I don’t have any­thing left to pay that ex­tra amount,” Sanchez said while vis­it­ing the apart­ment of her cousin, who got a sim­i­lar no­tice. So did ev­ery other res­i­dent of the Nor­mandy Apart­ments in Port­land.

Ore­gon has be­come one of Amer­ica’s most pop­u­lar mov­ing des­ti­na­tions, with tens of thou­sands of new­com­ers each year drawn by its forests and moun­tains, its quirky city of Port­land and its job op­por­tu­ni­ties. Ore­gon set a his­tor­i­cal low job­less rate in March of 3.8 per cent.

But the in­flow has caused a ren­tal hous­ing cri­sis across the state, with too few homes be­ing built. Fam­i­lies face steep rent hikes or evic­tions to make way for bet­ter-heeled ten­ants. Peo­ple have even re­sorted to liv­ing in tents or their ve­hi­cles. Now, law­mak­ers are de­bat­ing reme­dies for what House Speaker Tina Kotek calls an “emer­gency that de­mands bold ac­tion.”

In one of the ses­sion’s most bit­terly con­tested pro­pos­als, the Leg­is­la­ture is con­sid­er­ing forc­ing land­lords to pay ten­ants one month’s rent if they use one of the “land­lord-based rea­sons” for evict­ing a ten­ant, and three months’ rent if they vi­o­late the new law and is­sue a no-cause evic­tion. The bill also re­verses a 1985 ban on most rent con­trols in the state, al­low­ing cities and coun­ties to adopt their own.

If it passes, Ore­gon would be at the fore­front in the U.S. in es­tab­lish­ing renter pro­tec­tions, said Doug Far­quhar of the Na­tional Con­fer­ence of State Leg­is­la­tures.

Rep. Karin Power, a Demo­crat from the Port­land sub­urb of Mil­waukie and one of the bill’s spon­sors, said the hous­ing cri­sis is a statewide prob­lem that calls for a statewide solution.

But other law­mak­ers spoke in op­po­si­tion, say­ing the mea­sure would be a dis­in­cen­tive for peo­ple to buy or build prop­er­ties to rent, ul­ti­mately wors­en­ing the hous­ing cri­sis.

Char­lie Tabasko, a real­tor in the coastal town of Wald­port, was among al­most 400 peo­ple to sub­mit writ­ten tes­ti­mony, an ex­traor­di­nar­ily high num­ber. He said mak­ing land­lords “bear the bur­den of so­ci­ety’s in­equities” is crazy.

Don Moeller, a re­tiree in Salem, also wrote in, say­ing se­nior res­i­den­tial fa­cil­i­ties should be barred from in­creas­ing rent be­yond ten­ants’ abil­ity to pay, pos­si­bly mak­ing them home­less. One hun­dred se­niors, the oldest 98, signed Moeller’s let­ter.

“Ore­gon is in trouble, and that’s why I’m vot­ing yes for House Bill 2004,” Rep. Mark Meek, a Demo­crat from Ore­gon City, an­nounced be­fore House mem­bers ap­prove the bill by a 31-27 vote.

It is now be­fore the Se­nate. If the Se­nate ap­proves, the mea­sure goes to Gov. Kate Brown, who recently called the cri­sis un­ac­cept­able.

Many U.S. states ban rent con­trol, though Ne­braska law al­lows ten­ants to re­cover three months’ rent if they’re un­law­fully evicted or if land­lords shut off util­i­ties. In Michi­gan, law­mak­ers are con­sid­er­ing re­peal­ing the state’s rent-con­trol pro­hi­bi­tion. A sim­i­lar pro­posal in Cal­i­for­nia was recently put on hold by its spon­sor.

In 1971, when Ore­gon’s pop­u­la­tion was 2.1 mil­lion, Gov. Tom McCall was so con­cerned about pop­u­la­tion growth erod­ing qual­ity of life that he tried to dis­suade peo­ple from mov­ing to Amer­ica’s 33rd state.

“We want you to visit our state of ex­cite­ment of­ten,” McCall said in a speech. “Come again and again. But for heaven’s sake, don’t move here to live. Or if you do have to move in to live, don’t tell any of your neigh­bours where you are go­ing.”

De­spite those words, Ore­gon’s pop­u­la­tion has al­most dou­bled since then to 4.1 mil­lion. From July 2015 to July 2016, Ore­gon was Amer­ica’s sixth-fastest grow­ing state in per­cent­age pop­u­la­tion.

Find­ing, and keep­ing, hous­ing for the 40 per cent of Ore­go­ni­ans who rent has be­come a dire sit­u­a­tion in the woodsy towns in the south, in the moun­tains, along the Pa­cific coast and in Port­land.

In this Nov. 10, 2015, file photo, apart­ments for rent are shown in Port­land, Ore. As Ore­gon en­dures an acute hous­ing short­age, the leg­is­la­ture is con­sid­er­ing mak­ing land­lords pay ten­ants for no-cause evic­tions. "1 1)050

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