New Tenant Protections Are Likely to Die in the Oregon Senate

Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Dirk VanderHart
Portland Mercury

As Oregon continues to grapple with an affordable housing shortage, the Oregon Senate appears ready to kill renters' best hope for new protections in this year's legislative session.
Over the weekend, speculation began spreading online that Democratic senators didn't have the support to pass House Bill 2004. With the clock running out on this year's legislative session, it looks like the legislation will die in committee.

"I can confirm that there is not a path forward for House Bill 2004," says Rick Osborn, a spokesman for Senate Democratic leadership.

The development isn't altogether surprising. We reported last month that the Senate was working to reshape the bill in order to win the support of Portland Senator Rod Monroe and others.

As passed by the House in a narrow vote, the bill would have allowed cities and counties in Oregon to establish rent control policies for the first time in more than three decades, limited landlords' ability to issue no-cause evictions, and more. The rent control provision was stripped out as part of a set of amendments in a Senate committee, as Democrats tried to win over skeptical members of their party (Republicans had vowed to oppose the bill).

Those tweaks angered the group Portland Tenants United, which decided not to support HB 2004 as a result. But they also weren't enough to appease skeptical lawmakers. Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick told the Mercury last month senators were working on amendments that could satisfy the concerns of Monroe—who owns a large East Portland apartment building—Senator Betsy Johnson, and others. And in fact lawmakers did adopt some changes during a work session in the Senate's Rules Committee a week ago.

They apparently had little effect. And with Senate President Peter Courtney loath to call a bill up for a vote that has little chance at passage, it appears renter protections will join serious tax reform and a whole host of other goals for this year's legislative session on the cutting room floor.

Supporters of HB 2004 aren't yet giving in completely. A coalition called Stable Homes for Oregon Families is organizing events in Medford, Eugene, and Portland today, featuring local elected officials. Portland's event is scheduled for 3 pm at City Hall, and will include City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba speaking out in favor of the bill.

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