Oregon Statewide Rent Control first in Nation
Oregon Rent control law signed, takes effect immediately.
By Sarah Zimmerman, The Associated Press
SALEM — Gov. Kate Brown signed the nation’s first statewide mandatory rent control measure Thursday, giving a victory to housing advocates who say spiraling rent costs in the economically booming state have fueled widespread homelessness and housing insecurity.
Brown said the legislation will provide “some immediate relief to Oregonians struggling to keep up with rising rents and a tight rental market.”
Landlords are now limited to increases that cannot exceed 7 percent plus inflation, and can only raise rents annually.
The law prohibits them serving no-cause evictions after a tenant’s first year of occupancy, a provision designed to protect those who are living paycheck to paycheck and who affordable housing advocates say are often most vulnerable to sudden rent hikes and abrupt lease terminations.
The law takes effect immediately. Democrats, who control the Legislature, say the state’s housing crisis justified passing the bill as an emergency measure.
New York has a statewide rent control law, but cities can choose whether to participate. California restricts the ability of cities to impose rent control; in November, voters defeated a ballot initiative that would have overturned that law.
In hearings for the Oregon bill, tenants testified that they have struggled to keep up with skyrocketing rents, with many saying they’ve been forced from their homes. Kori Sparks, of Bend, said she relies on disability and has “to deal with the stress of losing an accessible home on short notice.”
She said rent control will protect vulnerable people from “a predatory system where profit comes before people and denies them of a basic human right.”
Builders in Oregon have not been able to build enough houses and apartments to meet the demands of the thousands of people moving to the state for jobs and, in some cases, for a lower cost of living. Many people move to the state from California.
A state report estimated that a renter would need to work 77 hours a week at minimum wage to afford a 2-bedroom apartment. Many renters in Oregon are paying more than 50 percent of their income on rent, far higher than the Congressional-set definition of housing affordability, which suggests setting aside 30 percent toward rent.
In the Portland metro area, rent began to plateau in 2017 after four consecutive years of rent hikes averaging 5 percent or more. The average rental unit costs about $1,400 a month, according to city data.
Oregon is also suffering from a lack of affordable housing and has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country.
Landlords and developers argued that rent control would make the housing crisis worse, saying investors will now be less willing to build or maintain properties.
“History has shown that rent control exacerbates shortages, makes it harder for apartment owners to make upgrades and disproportionately benefits higher-income households,” said Doug Bibby, president of the National Multifamily Housing Council, a national association representing apartment building owners.
The governor acknowledged that rent control alone isn’t enough, and that the state needs an “all hands on deck” solution. Brown has proposed a $400 million investment in affordable housing solutions in her two-year budget proposal.