Landmark, first-in-the-nation legislation to protect renters from rent gouging and no-cause evictions passed the Oregon House of Representatives on Tuesday. Senate Bill 608 creates a fairer system that will provide predictability and stability to renters throughout the state, while not discouraging new construction.
Rep. Mark Meek (D-Oregon City), a realtor and property manager, carried the legislation on the floor. He told the story of his own experiences as a child dealing with housing instability.
“I have lived both sides of this issue,” Rep. Meek said. “I’ve experienced homelessness and extreme hunger. I remember couch surfing throughout the Los Angeles-area with my mother after being evicted from our apartment. We’d sleep in a motel, when we could afford them, and when we couldn’t, we’d sleep in our car.”
“My story is one example of what displacement looks like. Displacement is devastating. It stifles a child’s ability to be successful. It is no small miracle that I am standing here before this esteemed body today.”
Senate Bill 608 will establish a statewide limit on rent increases, keeping them to no more than 7 percent plus the consumer price index during a 12-month period. It would also ban no-cause evictions following the first 12 months of occupancy.
Senate Bill 608 builds on years of work to address Oregon’s housing crisis, including a law passed in 2017 that prohibits rent increases in the first year of month-to-month tenancy and requires that landlords provide 90-day notice of rent increases.
“I am a landlord and will remain one after this bill becomes law,” Meek added. “Becoming a property manager in Oregon is a great investment and providing fair protection to renters with Senate Bill 608 does not change that.”
The bill passed 35 to 25 with three Democrats joining with Republicans.
Republicans say passage of this bill also raises a more serious question: If a property owner can’t decide who lives in their apartments and houses, who really owns the property? Certainly, it is no longer the one who pays the property taxes.
Moreover, the bill doesn’t address the real problem, the supply of affordable housing. The super-majority party contends the legislation will rein in rising rents caused by a housing crisis. But over and over, rent control in cities across the country has demonstrated otherwise. The answer to the housing crisis is not rent control, the answer is increasing the available number of houses and apartments. SB 608 neither encourages the building of new housing supply, nor does it provide real incentives to maintain existing rental property.
Investment dollars that would have provided more housing will now go elsewhere. The Democrats’ unwillingness to seriously consider common sense amendments will damage the mom and pop property owners, many of whom have invested their retirement dollars into the rental market. The consequences of this legislation will ripple far beyond the urban areas to Oregon’s small communities, where the housing shortage is just as real as in urban areas. It is also an assault on private property rights, effectively removing property owners’ ability to do what they wish with their own assets.
This bill is just one of many aimed to further regulate Oregonians, while doing little to solve the problems it purports to fix. The virtual elimination of single-family zoning ensconced in HB 2001 and the explicit promise in HB 2020 of a new “economic system” for households, businesses and workers demonstrate the true intentions of Oregon’s ruling party.
Governor Kate Brown is expected to sign the legislation.