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Bill was amended to reduce relocation fees for allowable no cause evictions, lift ban on rent control.

SALEM - A tenant protection bill that lifts the statewide ban on rent control and outlaws no-cause evictions is headed for a vote in the House of Representatives after the Human Services and Housing Committee made several revisions Thursday, March 30.

"Some people think a good policy is one where no one is happy, which makes this a great policy," said Rep. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale, a committee member.

The bill headed to the House is a compromise from both tenants and landlords.

The amended version by Rep. Mark Meek, D-Clackamas, reduces the amount of relocation assistance landlords are required to pay in allowable no-cause evictions such as a landlord moving into the property, remodeling or selling it. Landlords who rent out fewer than five units are exempt from having to pay the relocation fees. Landlords with smaller properties had requested such an exemption, arguing that the fees could put them in the red and wipe out their retirement savings.

The changes also exempt new construction from any local rent control measures for the first five years the unit is occupied. That change is meant to prevent any rent control measures from having a chilling effect on development, said Meek, who is a landlord and real estate agent and investor. Meek advised making that period longer, up to 15 years, but settled on five to reach consensus with tenant advocates.

"What I don't want to get lost … is how unpredictable the environment is for nearly 2 million tenants" in Oregon, said committee Chairwoman Rep. Alyssa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland.

The bill initially lifted the ban on rent control, without any exemptions for new construction. Economists widely believe rent control can inhibit growth in the number of units on the market, which is why states such as California have given new construction exemption from controlled rents. The original legislation also required landlords to pay tenants the equivalent of three months' rent in cases of allowable evictions at no fault of the tenant, such as a landlord moving into the property, remodeling or selling it.

Meek drafted the amendment because he said could not vote for the original legislation.

"With these amendments, I can support (the bill) and feel we worked hard to create fair and equitable system," Meek said.

The committee heard hours of impassioned testimony from landlords and tenants affected by the state's housing shortage over the last several weeks, before coming to the compromise.

The committee voted 5-to-4 Thursday to approve the revised bill, with all Republicans on the committee against the measure. Some Republicans still felt the bill was too overreaching of people's property rights.

Rep. Tawna Sanchez, D-Portland, said she struggled to support the compromise as she thought about reports that 1/3 of shelter seekers in Multnomah County were homeless due to no-cause evictions and rent hikes.

"These are huge issues, and I feel like we are making a lot of compromise on this," Sanchez said. "There has to be balance in the world. I am willing to go with it because I feel like we have to do something."

The legislation now goes to the House floor for a vote.

Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau
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