Portland Tribune | Jim Redden
Sarah Iannarone became the first major candidate for Portland mayor to call on the city and Multnomah County to temporarily freeze rents and no-cause evictions.
“In this housing disaster, we need our local governments to take bold action to keep Portlanders in their homes in the short term while we wait for new housing supply to come online and provide further relief,” said the Portland State University urban researcher. “I am calling on local governments to utilize their statutory authority to enact a 9-month temporary rent freeze and moratorium on no cause evictions in order to keep tenants in their homes during this crisis."
Two groups representing local renters are split over whether the city and county can legally do what Iannarone is demanding, however. Oregon law bans cities and counties from controlling rents. The only exception is in the event of "a natural or man-made disaster that materially eliminates a significant portion of the rental housing supply occurs."
The Portland City Attorney and the Multnomah County Counsel have both advised that rent hikes and the reported increase in no-cause evictions are not enough to qualify for the exception.
"There is a general preemption with an exception for disasters. The rent control preemption ordinance contains several terms that are undefined in the statutes, such as 'temporary,' 'man-made disaster,' 'materially eliminates,' and 'significant portion.' This provides wiggle room for local governments to provide relief in the current crisis," Iannarone says.
The grassroots Portland Tenants Union agrees with Iannarone.
"An emergency rent freeze and moratorium on no-cause evictions are two strong tools that could be implemented to immediately stabilize vulnerable tenants and stop the eviction-to-homelessness pipeline," says PTU spokesperson Gabriel Erbs.
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