Throughout the pandemic, Oregonians struggling to pay the rent have had some relief in the form of a statewide moratorium on evictions. With the COVID-19 crisis far from over and a deadline looming for the end of that eviction ban, stable housing advocates are pushing to extend that eviction moratorium.
On Nov. 23, Oregon's House Interim Committee on Housing heard testimony in favor of the Rental Housing Stabilization Proposal, which would offer extended relief for people in danger of losing their rental housing when the current moratorium ends Dec. 31. The new proposal, supported by the Oregon Housing Alliance, the Stable Homes for Oregon Families coalition and other housing advocates, would extend the current eviction moratorium to July 1, 2021 for renters experiencing a qualified financial hardship. Renters would have until July 1 to pay back any missed rent during the COVID crisis. The proposal would also set up a landlord compensation fund that could see landlords recouping up to 80% of back rent owed to them.
Over half of renters have resorted to borrowing, dipping into savings or reducing spending on food or medicines in order to pay the rent this year, according to a September Housing Insecurity Report issued by Portland State University's Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative. As of the date of that report, 34.8% of tenants overall owed back rent, with 56% of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color tenants owing back rent. "At least two-thirds reported paying their rent in full each month since March. But the number has declined from over 90% in March to 67% in July," reads a summary of the report.
"The statewide eviction moratorium expires in five short weeks, which means that parents living on the edge will have to find a new place to stay during the most difficult school year of our lifetimes," stated Alison McIntosh of Oregon Housing Alliance in a Nov. 23 press release. "Lawmakers can prevent more students trying to do remote learning in a shelter by taking action now to protect both renters and landlords."
On Nov. 19, Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek called for Gov. Kate Brown to declare a "catastrophic disaster" in the state, which would allow the legislature to convene a remote special session in December.
"We need to utilize some portion of the state's reserves as soon as possible to help struggling Oregonians and small businesses through the winter months," Kotek wrote in a press release. "I am particularly interested in seeing the state spend $100 million to keep Oregonians housed and stabilize the rental market as the pandemic continues into 2021."