OR Bill Could Stave Off Wave of Evictions
Monday, April 5, 2021
SALEM, Ore. -- Facing a housing crisis from the pandemic, Oregon lawmakers are considering a measure to better protect renters.
Senate Bill 282, known as the tenant protection bill, would extend the repayment grace period for back rent to Feb. 28, 2022. It passed the Senate Housing and Development Committee last week.
The state's eviction moratorium is set to end June 30, meaning folks could owe past as well as current rent without these protections.
Erin Meechan, a Gresham resident behind on her rent by about $2,500, testified in favor of the bill. She said living with the anxiety of an uncertain housing situation is draining.
"I've been homeless," Meechan explained. "Thank goodness I didn't have to actually sleep on the street, but I mean I've been without my own home and every day is a challenge. How are you going to get your laundry done? What are you going to do for food and making dinner, getting the kids back and forth to school?"
Meechan noted the state had a housing affordability crisis before the pandemic began.
Sybil Hebb, director of legislative advocacy for the Oregon Law Center, said evictions will likely spike July 1 without protections on past-due rent.
"It's really important to make sure that we take a step forward to help ensure stability in the coming months and also to take advantage of the fact that there are hundreds of millions of dollars in federal rent assistance that are just starting to come into the state," Hebb asserted.
Hebb pointed out several rounds of assistance are coming to the state, but it's uncertain when money will fully arrive.
Senate Bill 282 protects tenants who are living together in violation of occupancy limits, either because of the pandemic hardships or due to last year's wildfires. Hebb stressed it also ensures evictions during the pandemic don't end up on renters' records.
"Those impacts, if we don't act to stop them, could have a serious negative consequence on people's abilities to get housing in the future for years to come," Hebb remarked.
Hebb added major landlord groups have come out in support, or are neutral on the bill. She credits Sen. Kayse Jama, D-Portland, for working with the groups and other stakeholders on the bill.
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