PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday that gives tenants who are struggling with financial hardships due to the pandemic more time to pay past-due rent.
Currently, tenants have until July, but under Senate Bill 282 tenants will have until Feb. 28, 2022. The bill passed in the House with a vote of 39-17 and goes to the governor.
The measure protects renters from the long-term impacts of not making payments on time by barring reporting to consumer credit agencies and removing back rents from consideration when submitting future rental applications. The measure also bars potential landlords from screening out applicants based on COVID-era evictions and prevents pandemic evictions from appearing on a tenant’s record.
Additionally, the bill relaxes occupancy limits as lawmakers say some Oregon residents have needed to stay with friends and family due to financial or safety situations during the pandemic. However, the bill does not extend the current eviction moratorium past June 30 and does not forgive back rent.
In March, more than 17% — or nearly 158,000 Oregon renters who answered a survey — said they were not caught up on their rent payments, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent Household Pulse Survey.
In addition, 11% of Oregon renters who answered the survey said they have no confidence that they will be able to pay the next month's rent.
Opponents of the bill have argued that the measure would hurt landlords and is “a band-aid solution” for tenants.
“Yes, we all agree that there needs to be more affordable housing, but putting this responsibility on the backs of the private sector is not the solution,” Val Thorpe, an Oregon rental property owner wrote in her testimony on the bill. “Landlords are the backbone of affordable rental units and they also need help.”
During a special session in December, lawmakers established a $200 million relief fund for landlords and tenants — with most of the money set aside for tenants.
Lawmakers have also pointed out that Oregon is in line to receive $100 million from federal rental assistance funds approved late last year, along with more than $200 million in federal funds from President Joe Biden’s pandemic recovery plan.
Housing continued to be a top priority during the legislative session with lawmakers presenting 17 housing-focused bills in March that included $535 million in new state investments for increasing affordable housing, addressing homelessness, and supporting homeownership.
Cline is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues