People who lost their homes in the 2020 Labor Day wildfires would get a minimum of two years under insurance policies to repair or rebuild, and other insurance protections, under a bill that passed the Oregon House without dissent.
House Bill 3272 was approved 56-0 on Monday, April 26, and went to the Senate. It is among a series of bills that emerged from the House Special Committee on Wildfire Recovery, which was formed this session after wildfires swept through Oregon and destroyed 4,000 homes last year.
More than 2,500 of those homes were lost in the Almeda fire, which swept north from Ashland to Talent and Phoenix.
"We are listening to Oregonians impacted most by the wildfires and delivering on what they need in this moment," Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, said. Marsh is the bill's chief sponsor, and her district includes the area affected by the Almeda fire.
No one else spoke.
The usual time limit for rebuilding is one year. But the Department of Consumer and Business Services — which regulates insurance companies in Oregon — has reported that 28 companies have agreed to a two-year limit. The bill would set two years, plus two years' worth of living expenses. That period could be extended another 12 months if there are delays in construction.
Under the bill, insurance companies would be required to offer or provide policyholders updated estimates of replacement costs with every other renewal of policies.
Homeowners would be allowed to buy or rebuild elsewhere. They could collect the limits of combined structure coverage to rebuild, and to use the limits of coverage for outbuildings and other structures — up to the actual loss — to rebuild a home.
Rep. David Gomberg, D-Otis, also sits on the wildfire recovery committee. His neighborhood was burned in the Echo Mountain Complex fire, and one-third of his neighbors are among the affected survivors.
"We are doing all we can to help them get back on their feet," Gomberg said in a statement afterward. "The solutions here are a combination of compassion and common sense. People are anxious to rebuild, and we must provide them with the tools they need to get back on their feet."
Other bills, all of which have passed the House and are pending in the Senate:
• House Bill 3218 would allow the Department of Housing and Community Services to apply its manufactured home programs to housing destroyed by the Labor Day wildfires.
• House Bill 2607 would exempt housing from construction taxes when rebuilding occurs in areas affected by natural disasters.
• House Bill 2341 would allow assessors/tax collectors to prorate property taxes in areas affected by natural-disaster declarations by the governor. (Property values used for taxation are usually set as of Jan. 1.) The bill applies after July 1, 2020.
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