City Council passes rental screening ordinance

Civic Affairs

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland City Council passed an ordinance that will reduce housing discrimination and improve access to rental housing.

The Fair Access in Renting ordinance, or FAIR, was passed 3-1 on Wednesday.

FAIR will change the criteria used to screen potential tenants and regulate the security deposit process. It changes the screening criteria, limiting the use of credit and criminal histories, changing income requirements and doing away with the need for a government ID.

Commissioner Chloe Eudaly has been pushing for this ordinance for two years, gaining the support of many local advocacy groups. 

“What we learned is that racism is deeply rooted,” Eudaly said. “We continue to see residents of color pushed to the margins.” 

Mayor Ted Wheeler voted in favor but said one problem with the new policy is there is no budget for its implementation. He said he will not support taking funding from public safety.  

Amanda Fritz was the dissenting vote, citing an adverse effect on affordable housing. 

“Many people can not afford rent in Portland,” Fritz said. “This policy not only doesn’t solve the problem, it may exasperate it. One way is through loss of rental stock. Landlords are just not threatening to sell their rental stocks because of this policy — they already have.”

Some landlords have voiced opposition, claiming the changes will discourage new developments and drive up rent costs.

The new rules go into effect next March if funding is implemented. 

Eudaly said the following about the ordinance:

It is no secret that Portland has a long history of overtly racist housing laws—the effects of which still shape our City today. What we fail to acknowledge more readily is that many of our current laws continue to uphold discriminatory practices. While the language may be less explicit now, the effect is just as clear: we continue to see communities of color, and especially Black residents, pushed to the margins of our City and beyond at an alarming rate.  The heart of the Fair Access in Renting policies is about addressing the criteria that continue to be used in as a proxy for race, which includes criminal records, income requirements, and credit scores which leads to discrimination and disparate outcomes. We would never have come to these policy solutions if we did not consider the unique experiences, needs, and barriers faced by Black renters in Portland. I do not claim that the Fair Access in Renting package solves all our problems, nor do I believe the communities themselves are happy and satisfied with everything in it.  But together, we built the most comprehensive screening criteria reform policy in the country, and I am proud of how we did it and why.

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