Renters, tenant groups such as CAT (Community Alliance of Tenants), PDX-TU (Portland Tenants Union), and Tenants Priced Out, property owners, and various community groups such as Elders in Action — along with supporters and members of the press gathered in front of Portland’s City Hall Wednesday afternoon to participate in the public hearing regarding Portland renter protections brought before the council for a vote.
Renter’s lack of Legal Power all too evident
As participants who were planning to give testimony lined up to sign-in, we were given a written statement from Commissioner Saltzman that outlined the following:
The first proposal brought by CAT, requesting a One-Year Notice on Rent Increases above 5%, was declined without discussion due to legal constraints. The city commissioners pointed out that state law has a preemption against local governments enacting any rule controlling rent prices.
The 2nd item, a One-Year Moratorium on No-Cause Evictions,was also declined because State law allows landlords to invoke no-cause evictions, and a local ordinance cannot be incompatible with state law.
Receiving these two major defeats even before we stepped onto the council floor made it self-evident just how little state power renters actually have.
Testimony Given to City Council
Renters across the board are drowning in a sea of uncontrolled rent prices. Landlords, backed by state sanctions and protections, are being allowed to exert inordinate powers and a growing financial chokehold on the lives of renters. They can charge whatever rent-price they decide (conveniently referred to as the market) and at a shocking rate of increase that benefits only them.
The rate of rent increases is at the heart of the matter
Anytime a housing service provider has the legal authority to raise rents 10% – 70% all at once and only be required to give a family a 30-day or 60-day notice of increase, the state is giving landlords implicit permission to enter your home and reach directly into your bank account. Not only can they reach once or twice but they can keep on reaching as often as state law allows.
City council members voted affirmatively to adopt Mayor Hale’s State of Emergency declaration for the city at the local level. This ordinance puts housing on the list for cause for an emergency to be declared by the state legislature.
Renters are under financial siege and need real protections not just public gestures
We are in a financial shake-down. Greedy landlords are exploiting upstanding renters who pay their rent on time, who maintain their units, abide by their rental agreements and for the most part get along with their neighbors and management.
As a tenant advocate trying to help other desperate displaced tenants about to become homeless after receiving a no-cause eviction following a sale of their apartment building–I see, hear and feel the pain first-hand of how this impacts the lives of vulnerable members of our community. Seniors, low-wage earners and people with disabilities are the first-wave casualties of this market-driven self-inflicted crisis.
Tenants addressing our own needs
- We need real emergency measures
- We need to stop the rent-hike flood waters
- We need to change current state laws that work against housing stability and affordability for renters
- We need a state level Renter’s Bureau with strong legislative powers
- We need a renter lobbyist who can negotiate federal funding and affect national policies
A Time for Change
It is my hope that renters are finally waking up and realizing that the good old days are long past. No longer can renters rely on a culture of good will and mutually beneficial relationships between landlords and tenants, without iron-clad state and local protections.
As CAT director Justin Buri stated, “It’s time for us to stop putting profits over people.”
Evicting long-term tenants just to raise prices and move in higher-paying tenants represents the values of our times.
Cindy Roberts from the Housing Alliance of Oregon stated, “This crisis this ordinance is trying to discuss is not a landlord-tenant issue. It’s a rental market supply vs demand issue.” The absurdity of such a statement is indicative of the market-economy culture and lack of moral values that have, like a cancer, invaded and corrupted our collective humanity.
Jessie Spaberg went on a tirade admonishing the city council, asking, “How many years on your watch have these problems been developing? Red tape and bureaucracy is creating the problem.“
Our Community Has the Power to CREATE CHANGE!
We set the rules of the marketplace, and when it no longer serves our basic needs for safety, security, food and shelter, it is our human imperative to take immediate action and together create change.