On the end of the 2017 Legislative Session: A note from our Executive Director

Now that a week and a half has passed since the 2017 legislative session, we’ve all had some time to think over the outcome. Let’s be honest: it is frustrating. While HB 2004, a landmark bill that gave stronger tenant protections, didn’t pass we came closer than ever before in almost 40 years. Your hard-work, dedication, bravery in telling your stories, was time well spent. As members who directed CAT to pursue this historic endeavor, we now have to ask a critical question about how we move forward: what’s next?

In April, your bravery, dedication, calls, emails, and showing up to Salem convinced the House of Representatives to pass historic legislation from their chamber: Just Cause Evictions and lifting the ban on Rent-Stabilization passed the House. In 2016, we could barely get our lawmakers to extend notice periods for no cause terminations. This progress should be celebrated. This historic victory belongs to you.

Now, let’s be honest. The bill was paired down significantly in two Senate Committees which made it hard to swallow. The final bill that would have hit the floor extended the time in which just-cause evictions would kick in to one year. Lifting the ban on rent control was also taken out of the bill, and protections for people in leases were minimal.
However, it did include one minor rent-stabilization measure: rent could only be increased once per year for month to month agreements. It also mandated that landlords offer six-month fixed-term leases. It also would have given tenants the upper hand if no-cause terminations were given within 60 days of asking for repairs, assuming retaliation no matter how long a household had been in their home. Again, it wasn’t what we wanted, but for Oregon as a state, it is further than we’ve ever gone. Oregon was also one of the first states in the nation to consider statewide just-cause and rent-stabilization measures. Your work helped to champion some of the most innovative statewide tenant protections in the country.

This is significant progress that would not have been possible without you.

Should we be disappointed it didn’t make it across the finish line? Of course. This session was a hard fought battle. We invested a lot of time and hope. We should be angry that only a few Senators blocked this bill from passing into law. But let’s remember who we are and what we’ve accomplished together:

  • In 2016, we extended notice periods for rent-increases to 90 days for the entire state, and made it impossible for rents to be increased at all in the first year of month-to-month tenancies.
  • In 2015, our #RenterStateofEmergency campaign kicked of housing emergencies to be declared around the state in Portland, Milwaukie, Bend, and even in other parts of the nation. #RenterSOS won more notice for rent-increases and no-cause evictions in some jurisdictions and laid the foundation for many tenant protection policies we’re seeing develop now across Oregon.
  • In 2014, we helped change the way landlords apply our payments, no longer allowing them to exploit our rent money in dishonest ways.
  • In 2014, we helped make it illegal for landlords to reject tenants based on pending arrests or arrests that resulted in no conviction.
  • In 2013, CAT fought to expand housing opportunity for tenants with Section 8 vouchers, by including them as a protected class in the Fair Housing Act. As of 2014, Oregon landlords can no longer say, “I don’t accept Section 8.” We also added protections for tenants with high barriers for housing, by placing limits on how a landlord can screen a rental application.
  • In 2009, we won more protections for tenants in Oregon, limiting the types of fees a landlord could charge and how much they could charge.
  • In 2009, in collaboration with housing advocates throughout Oregon, CAT won a new source of funding, called the Document Recording Fee, which generates over $15 million every two years for housing development, preservation and services in all of Oregon.
  • Since 2008, we’ve organized over 50 buildings to win needed repairs, fight back against rent-increases and evictions.
  • In 2005, CAT won stronger protections for tenants from discrimination and retaliation. Landlords have to tell us why they’re denying us housing so we can better equip ourselves to fight back.

These victories and so many more are reflective of your strength and resolve.

Here’s some perspective – it is not uncommon for statewide housing legislation to take at least five to six years before it passes both chambers. It took Just-Cause and modest Rent-Stabilization measures one year to get passed one chamber, and the amended bill to be one vote short of passing the second chamber. It is amazing to get this far in such a short period of time. And we can go further next time.

We’ve made really good progress and we must keep fighting this battle to win. That’s what’s next.

Onward,
Katrina Holland
Executive Director at the Community Alliance of Tenants