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Advocates Urge Oregon to Act to Ease Housing Crisis

Oregonians are gathering at the Capitol today to push legislators to help ease the state's housing crisis. (AARP)
Oregonians are gathering at the Capitol today to push legislators to help ease the state's housing crisis. (AARP)
April 11, 2017

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon's popularity as an attractive destination has had a side effect on housing markets across the state. Oregonians face pressures from many sides. Cities have low vacancy rates, rents are increasing rapidly, and property owners can evict renters without cause, meaning people often have little time to find a new place.

That's why advocates concerned about access to affordable housing are in Salem on Wednesday, pushing for legislation that stabilizes Oregon's housing situation.

Alison McIntosh, deputy policy director of Neighborhood Partnerships, says the situation can be especially hard for seniors on fixed incomes.

"Folks are really getting squeezed, and unfortunately we're hearing more and more stories of seniors who are ending up sleeping in their cars or sleeping in shelters because they've been pushed out of their apartments," she said.

McIntosh says older Oregonians can spend up to 70 percent of their income on housing and any unexpected expenses, such as a medical bill, can put them on the streets. Advocates are pushing for legislation such as House Bill 2004, which would end no-cause evictions and lift the ban on rent control. That bill is currently in the Senate.

Marjorie Davis was the victim of a no-cause eviction in Bandon. She and her husband, who is battling liver cancer, were forced out by their landlord after the landlord's daughter started living in a shed behind their home. Davis and her husband were forced to foot her utility bills, even though they are retired and live on fixed incomes.

When Davis asked the landlord for help, he tossed her and her husband out, with 60 days to find a new place. She hopes HB 2004 passes so this doesn't happen to other people.

"I think it's very important, especially in areas where there's not a lot of rentals, that people don't have to get this upheaval going so fast that they have to be faced with a situation like we were - that we might have been living in a campground," she explained. "After three years of paying our rent in time, this would be our reward for it."

Opponents of HB 2004 say it could discourage investment in rental properties and construction and that the private market should handle the crisis. However, McIntosh says properties can't be built fast enough to ease the issue.

"Unfortunately, tenants who are getting priced out of their homes or getting no-cause evicted right now can't wait for more supply to come online," McIntosh added. "Their lives are being upended right now because of an eviction notice."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR