Excerpted from OPB, Oregon Public Broadcasting 3.3.2019
Oregon is the first state in the nation with statewide rent control.
Gov. Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 608 into law Thursday. It takes effect immediately.
Brown called the legislation a groundbreaking, bold start.
“(This) will provide immediate relief to Oregonians struggling to keep up with rising rents and a tight rental market, but it doesn’t work on its own,” the governor said. “It’s going to take much more work to ensure that every Oregonian in our communities large and small have access to housing choices.”
The governor has also called on lawmakers to approve a $400 million investment to increase the housing supply. Brown said she wants the money to help address ending homelessness for children and veterans, in particular, and accelerate the growth of the state’s housing stock.
Senate Bill 608 caps how much landlords can raise rent and makes it harder for them to evict tenants without a reason.
Rent control sailed through the Oregon Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats. It’s the first bill signed into law during the 2019 legislative session.
Under the measure, landlords across the state can raise the rent no more than 7 percent per year, plus the annual change in the consumer price index. The bill carves out an exemption for rental properties that are less than 15 years old. It also limits a landlord’s ability to evict tenants without a reason after they have lived in a property for a year.
Democrats, who dominate both chambers of the Legislature and hold the governor’s office, said passing the bill was a priority and ensured there were no changes made to it as it moved through both chambers.
“This will not solve Oregon’s housing crisis — it is one of the tools in the toolbox,” the governor said. “It’s the first time in the entire country any state has used a tool like this. I think that signifies at least to Oregonians and policymakers this is a critically important issue and it’s important we tackle it.”
The measure would also prevent a landlord’s ability to evict tenants without a reason after they have lived in the building for a year. As long as landlords cite a reason — such as violating the lease agreement or not paying rent — they could still remove tenants from their properties.
There are other carve outs in the bill that allow landlords to evict tenants, such as a need to upgrade their building or plans to demolish it. Landlords could also evict a tenant if a family member is moving in the unit under certain circumstances, but they would need to give tenants 90 days notice.
If a landlord were to violate the terms, they could be on the hook to pay the tenant up to 3 months rent and damages.
Republicans argued the bill was Portland-centric. The issues in their cities and towns is a lack of supply, they said. Conservative lawmakers warned of rural areas of the state being decimated by the measure.
Some tenant right’s groups also argued the cap was too high.
But House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, who was a key lawmaker in ensuring the measure passed, said it would accomplish their main goal: to end the practice of rent gouging.