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The Senate Human Services Committee removed a provision that would have allowed cities to impose rent control.

PARIS ACHEN/CAPITAL BUREAU - Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Human Services, at the Oregon Capitol in Salem. The committee on Wednesday, May 31, 2017, sent a tenant protections bill to the Senate floor.SALEM — A Senate committee has stripped a tenant protections bill of a key provision that would have allowed cities to impose limits on rent increases.

The Senate Committee on Human Services voted 4-to-1 Wednesday, May 31, to make changes to House Bill 2004 A. The most significant change denied cities the authority to impose rent control. Instead, senators added a limit on the frequency, but not the amount, of rent increases allowed per year. Landlords would be restricted to raising the rent once per year, but they could hike the price of rent by an unlimited amount.

"I just cannot express enough how important this is for constituents in my district. They are being displaced," said Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham. "We as Oregonians need to make sure there is housing for everyone, and I think this is a good step forward."

The bill, passed by the House of Representatives in April, now heads to the Senate floor for a vote. The Senate changes also would need House approval.

The bill still outlaws no-cause evictions and requires landlords with more than five units to pay a month's rent to a tenant when the tenant is forced to move out because the landlord is changing the property's use, renovating, demolishing or moving in.

Other Senate changes would extend the grace period for a landlord to end a month-to-month tenancy without cause from six months to nine months. Landlords also could force a tenant out at the end of a lease without paying relocation costs, provided that the landlord gives the tenant 90 days' notice of the landlord's intent not to renew the lease.

Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, said he was disappointed that many of the protections have been whittled away from the bill, but he acknowledged some protections are better than none.

"I am sad to see the changes on the rent payment side. I say that because … I have just heard from so many people who have had sudden unexpected spikes in their rent in the 40 to 50 percent range, in some cases even higher. When people are living day-to-day, when they don't have a lot of money saved up in reserve, it is very, very difficult to deal with that kind of unexpected spike," Dembrow said.

Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said he voted against passing the bill out of committee because it fails to address land use laws that impair developers' ability to build more affordable units and ease the housing shortage.

Other cities around the country, some without restrictive land use laws, are facing the same affordable housing shortage, Dembrow noted. He pointed to Nashville, Tenn., as an example.

"The cost of borrowing money is as at least an important factor as land availability," Dembrow said. "Housing is a complex issue, and there is no silver bullet to solving this problem. … We have to do whatever we can, and I do believe this will alleviate some of the negative impact on individuals."


Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau
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