State may expand on Portland landlord policy


PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Two days after Portland officials passed an ordinance to require landlords to pay relocation costs to tenants evicted without cause, some state lawmakers are working to expand the ordinance statewide.

Seventeen Democratic legislators heard from some 200 tenants about how the housing crisis has affected them during a forum Saturday, Feb. 4, at Highland Christian Church in Northeast Portland. The lawmakers also heard residents’ views on statewide legislation to mimic the Portland ordinance on no cause evictions and a proposal by House Speaker Tina Kotek to lift the statewide ban on rent control.

The event was organized to give a voice to tenants who have less access to the Legislature than powerful landlord lobbying groups, said Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland, chairwoman of the House Committee on Human Services and Housing.

“We are going to work very hard this year in the Legislature to eliminate no-cause evictions,” Speaker Kotek said, eliciting applause and cheers from the crowd. “…This is a fairness issue.”

During the event, Kotek said she met residents of the Titan Manor apartments in Portland’s St. Johns neighborhood, where more than 50 tenants were evicted without cause after a California management company bought the property.

One of the tenants, Coya Crespin, a single mother of two, said she was heartened by the turnout of lawmakers and tenants Saturday.

“To see all of these people and to see how the community wants to band together, it makes me feel like Portland is a special place to live, and that’s why people are coming here,” Crespin aid.

Because Portland’s ordinance is retroactive 89 days, Crespin said she could either receive relocation costs from her landlord or work out a new rental agreement with the company.

There are at least two iterations of both no-cause evictions legislation and rent control bills that have been proposed in the Legislature.

Housing advocate groups, such as Stable Homes for Oregon Families, are pushing for passage of House Bill 2004.That legislation both lifts the ban on rent control and requires landlords to pay relocation costs for no-cause evictions.

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, has signaled he may lack the votes necessary to pass that legislation in the Senate.

The Portland ordinance already faces a challenge by Multifamily Northwest.

Portland’s ordinance requires landlords to pay relocation costs of $2,900 to $4,500 when they evict someone without cause, or if a tenant has to move because rent increased by 10 percent or more in a year.

The provision related to rent increases violates the state’s ban on rent control, said John DiLorenzo, who represents the association of property owners and managers.

Economists largely agree that such policies are usually counterproductive to efforts to increase the supply of housing and decrease rents. An inadequate number of units is the main cause of the state’s housing crisis, affecting both price and availability, state economists have said.

“What we are hoping to do for this bill is return the tool to local jurisdictions so they can explore this for themselves,” said Rep. Karin Power, D-Milwaukie, a co-sponsor of House Bill 2004. “We’ve heard anecdotes about it working and not working in some circumstances around the country, but Portland is a little bit different and what works for Portland might not work for another city.”

The Portland ordinance gives exemptions to landlords who own only one dwelling, rent out a property weekly, rent rooms in their living space, and when a property owner plans to return to a home after a less than three-year absence.

Unlike the Portland ordinance, House Bill 2004 does not specify a limit on how much landlords can raise rent. The legislation simply allows cities to impose rent control. The bill prohibits no-cause evictions except in certain circumstances and requires the landlord to pay relocation costs to the tenant. The bill exempts property owners who are renting out rooms on the property of their primary residence.

However, homeowners who want to move back into a dwelling they were renting out are not exempt from paying relocation costs to the tenant.

Hearings on the bills start March 2, said Rep. Keny-Guyer of the housing committee.The Portland Tribune is a KOIN media partner.

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