Housing Crisis- Oregon Lawmakers Hear from Central Oregon Renters and Community Leaders

Salem, Ore. – Renters, housing advocates, and community leaders from Central Oregon and across the state testified before the House Committee on Human Services and Housing Thursday morning in support of legislation that will address Oregon’s housing crisis. The hearing will continue with additional testimony Thursday evening at 5:00pm.

HB 2004 will help keep families in their homes by requiring statements of just-cause to ensure that evictions or lease terminations are only permitted when a landlord provides a valid reason. The bill will also repeal the statewide prohibition on modern rent stabilization policies, restoring local control to allow individual communities to design policies that meet their unique needs.

“No-cause eviction circumvents due process,” said Cody Standiford, co-chair of the Homeless Leadership Coalition in Central Oregon. “Homelessness has been deemed to be a life-threatening condition. Placing people at risk of homelessness for no reason is akin to placing a person on death row without a trial. HB 2004 addresses the current lack of due process and will help to protect people from entering the potentially lethal condition of homelessness without reason and access to due process under the laws of our great state.”

Rapidly rising housing costs across Oregon

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Oregon increased steadily in recent years from $807 in 2012 to $864 in 2015. Between 2015 to 2016, that figure jumped, from $864 to $1,008, marking a single-year rent increase of $144 or 16.7 percent.

In Bend, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $827. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities — without paying more than 30% of income on housing — a household must earn $33,080 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into an hourly Housing Wage of $15.90.

“Evictions with no reason and extreme rent increases cause immense financial hardship on working families that can force them to deplete their savings, force them into homelessness and send them into a spiral of poverty,” said Pam Phan, Policy and Organizing Director for the Community Alliance of Tenants. “Moreover, these practices disproportionately impact families of color, worsening inequities and pulling communities apart.”

As housing demand rapidly outpaces supply, no-cause evictions and triple-digit rent increases have become increasingly common for the 40 percent of Oregonians who rent, upending their lives and breaking their budgets.

Extremely low vacancy rates mean that families who have been evicted without cause or forced out by rent increases cannot find new units that they can afford, and many renters who have had stable housing are suddenly facing homelessness.

“Our stores’ neighbors are both our employees and our customers,” said Sarah Joannides, Director of Social Responsibility for New Seasons Market in support of ending no-cause evictions. “When our neighbors are removed from their homes and can’t afford to stay in their community, we feel the impact as a company, and as Oregonians.”

Just-cause evictions and rent stabilization would preserve property rights for landlords while restoring fairness for families and communities.