Rent relief: Good for tenants, but landlords have questions

Coronavirus

$200M in rent assistance creates funds for landlords

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Mike Grigsby-Lane is one of many Oregonians who can rest a little easier after lawmakers passed a bill to extend the statewide ban on evictions until July 1, 2021, extending the eviction moratorium past its January 1 expiration.

Grigsby-Lane, who is disabled, said his husband died unexpectedly in May after exhibiting COVID symptoms. Since then he’s been doing whatever it takes to get by.

“I’m selling personal belongings, furniture, I’ve gong through my retirement, my savings. I cut back on everything and I managed to stay afloat for a while,” he said. “But now I’m a few months behind on my rent.”

The measure provides $200 million in rent assistance and creates a fund for landlords whose tenants haven’t been able to pay rent due to financial hardship brought on by COVID. The catch, however, is that in order to qualify for that money, landlords must agree to forgive 20% of a tenant’s past-due rent.

Sybil Hebb with the Oregon Law Center said the group is “just elated about the passage” of this bill.

“At this darkest time of the year passage of the tenants stability package right before the holidays gives renters some hope and some light,” Hebb said. “The package provides much needed stability and safety through the school year.”

Jason Miller, Legislative Director for Oregon Rental Housing Association, December 21, 2020 (KOIN)

Jason Miller, the legislative director for the Oregon Rental Housing Association, told KOIN 6 News small landlords don’t often have the spare cash to cover expenses like mortgage, taxes, insurance and maintenance costs — and might not be able to sustain a 20% loss.

“In today’s session at testimony, Representative Meek said it well,” Miller said. “No other essential service has been asked to forgive 20% of their income in order to provide their essential service to Oregonians. “

Housing providers are generally everyday, average people, he said.

“They have saved up some money to invest in housing rather than in stocks or bonds or anything like that and that money they’ve invested is usually just a down payment on the rental property,” Miller said.

Nancy Slavin is a small landlord who supports the rental assistance deal the Oregon legislature approved, December 21, 2020 (KOIN)

And he said there should have been a solution a long time ago. “We’re almost a year into the moratoriums and now we’re trying to catch up on almost a year’s worth of past-due rent for some housing providers.”

But Nancy Slavin, who is a small landlord, said this is a relief.

“What I care more about is my tenants, that they have a safe and stable home to live in that I don’t have to even have to deal with asking for something like that during this time,” Slavin said. “For me, 80% of a rent is a whole lot better than 100% of nothing.”

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