By Gordon R. Friedman
Portland city commissioners made permanent on Wednesday a program that requires landlords to pay renters' moving costs if they are evicted without cause or are forced to move because of a rent increase of 10 percent or more.
The program, a brainchild of Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, is designed to address Portland's escalating housing and homelessness crisis, in addition to other steps taken by the city council.
It had been used on a trial basis for a year before commissioners made it permanent, and included a blanket exemption for landlords that own only one rental unit. The permanent program removes that all-encompassing exemption, but adds a laundry list of new ones that will allow some landlords with a single unit and other landlords meeting certain conditions to avoid paying tenants' relocation costs.
Wednesday's vote comes after commissioners heard hours of testimony on the program last week. During that testimony, supporters said the program has helped tenants avoid big rent hikes and costly moves, while some landlords pushed back against the rules as hampering their ability to issue a no-cause eviction against bad tenants.
Councilors' re-approval of the program also included language to establish a "rental registration system" through which the city will track landlords who seek an exemption from the moving-assistance rules. Landlords will also have to report when they issue a no-cause eviction or raise rent more than 10 percent.
In explaining her "yes" vote to make the program permanent, Eudaly said housing "cannot be treated like any other commodity" and that commissioners are taking what steps they can to make renting more affordable.
In explaining his "yes" vote, Commissioner Nick Fish said Portland renters shouldn't have to worry about facing a massive rent hike. He noted the city council has worked to ease the local housing crisis by lobbying the Legislature for more authority to address housing problems head-on, secured a $250 million housing bond and created new programs to combat high rents and homeless, among taking other steps.
"The market forces at work here are too big for any local government to contain, but we have an obligation to step up and lead in ways that we can," Fish said. "Today, we are doing just that."
The vote to make the program permanent was unanimous, and the new rules take effect immediately.
(c)2018 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)