Photo: Getty Images
Despite the U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 decision Thursday, Aug. 26, to end the federal eviction moratorium, local protections and resources—from rapid-response rent assistance to eviction grace periods to expanded legal aid—remain available to keep renters in the city of Portland and Multnomah County from losing their homes.
The federal moratorium, issued through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was set to expire Oct. 3. The Supreme Court ruled that the CDC lacked the authority to ban evictions, even during a public health crisis where housing is central to keeping people healthy.
City and County leaders have been working together throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to pool their rent assistance funds and create systems that protect local renters. Those efforts took on new urgency before the end of Oregon’s own eviction moratorium on June 30, 2021.
Together, the City and County have kept thousands of neighbors affected by the pandemic in their homes, avoiding homelessness, while limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Eviction grace period
Right now, anywhere in Multnomah County, eligible tenants who provide their landlord with proof they have applied for rent relief will be protected from eviction for 90 days. The 90 days start once the tenant provides documentation to their landlord. Renters can receive the appropriate documentation from the rent assistance provider they are working with.
Rapid-response help is available to anyone who receives an eviction notice for nonpayment of rent, thanks to an eviction defense program launched in July by Multnomah County, in partnership with the City of Portland.
New rapid-response eviction defense program
Renters who receive an eviction notice should immediately call 2-1-1 for help. A 211info staff member will collect information, then refer the renter to Bienestar de la Familia, which will help the renter apply for rapid rental assistance. Renters should call to apply even if they’ve already applied for rental assistance through another source.
Bienestar, a Multnomah County program, has been expanded specifically to help meet this need and serves as the core of a comprehensive eviction response team.
Bienestar case managers can work with tenants and their landlords to obtain rental assistance within a matter of days. Beyond waiting for referrals from 211, Bienestar case managers are attending eviction court proceedings to identify other at-risk tenants. And, in partnership with Oregon Law Center, case managers are going door-to-door to reach people whose names appear on upcoming eviction court dockets.
This eviction defense program is separate from other rent assistance programs, including funding available through the State of Oregon’s rent assistance portal. The program is funded through federal assistance that’s been directly allocated to Portland and Multnomah County.
Other rent assistance still available
As of Aug. 17, Multnomah County, the City of Portland and their partners have distributed $46 million in rent assistance since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with an additional $99 million on the way.
Given the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Black, Indigenous and other People of Color, the City and County’s emergency rent assistance efforts have prioritized those households. Eighty-two percent of households receiving rent assistance through June identify as BIPOC, translating to 8,468 households, or 23,437 individuals.
Community-based organizations funded by the City and County continue to offer rent assistance, with the number of organizations more than doubling since the pandemic started, from 19 to 40. A full list of partner organizations with rent relief funds is available here.
The State’s Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program also offers an online application portal. Tenants who don’t have an eviction notice can apply through that portal if they need help paying their current rent or any back rent accrued between April 2020 and June 2021.
Approval of an application submitted through the state portal can take time, but documentation of a completed and submitted application can be used to activate the 90 days of eviction protection in Multnomah County.
Again, if you receive an eviction notice at any time, even after applying through another source, call 2-1-1 immediately.
Legal aid investments
On Aug. 18, Portland City Council authorized the Portland Housing Bureau to contract with the Oregon Law Center to support low-income renters. This program allows income-eligible renters with a termination notice, proposed termination of their housing subsidy, or eviction court papers access to a lawyer.
Renters who are facing eviction can call the Eviction Defense Project at 888-585-9638 or email email@example.com to seek legal help. Renters should leave a message on the intake line or send an email including their name, date of birth, and eviction case number.
In addition, Multnomah County has contracted with the Oregon Law Center to review court dockets for non-payment eviction cases and to reach out to defendants to offer legal support and rent assistance. Oregon Law Center is also helping to refer clients to Bienestar to access the eviction defense program.
The County is also contracting with Metropolitan Public Defenders to assign attorneys to work with Bienestar staff to screen eviction notices for any violations by landlords. Attorneys can also connect with tenants and landlords in an attempt to settle evictions before any court hearings, to keep tenants stably housed.