PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A measure that would reinstate and extend Oregon's moratorium on foreclosures until Sept. 1 during the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday passed the state's House of Representatives.
Unlike the bill that was passed by lawmakers last June, the new legislation would not protect commercial property owners — those who own more than five properties or properties with more than four housing units. The moratorium would be retroactive back to Dec. 3 and could be extended until the end of 2021 by the governor.
The latest bill, which passed in the House 38-21, moves to the state Senate.
“I assure you that Oregonians need this sort of protection. Without it, I fear that we face even more economic distress,” said Rep. Paul Holvey, a Democrat representing Eugene. “More Oregonians will become homeless if this bill does not pass.”
In March, more than 6% — or more than 65,000 Oregon homeowners — said they were not caught up on their mortgage payments, based on the United States Census Bureau’s most recent Household Pulse Survey.
Financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic have only exacerbated the state's ongoing housing crisis and as a result has been a top priority for lawmakers, even prior to this legislative session.
In December, during a special legislative session, lawmakers extended Oregon’s eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021, and established a $200 million in relief for landlords and tenants. However, the foreclosure moratorium was not extended — leaving some homeowners concerned about how they would make their payments.
However, many homeowners are currently protected from foreclosures by federal moratoriums and the CARES Act provide for protections for homeowners with a federally backed loan.
But a report from the National Housing Law Project states that about 30% of single-family mortgages, or roughly 14.5 million loans nationwide, are not backed or owned by a federal agency and not covered by the federal moratorium.
“The Legislature has taken incredibly important actions in the last year to designate rental assistance for tenants and landlords, as well as to impose an eviction moratorium that will keep Oregonians in their homes during the worst public health crisis of their lifetimes,” said Rep. Julie Fahey, a Democrat representing West Eugene and Junction City. “While thousands of Oregonians are being vaccinated every day we are still very much at risk of a fourth wave of this virus and our unemployment rate remains high.”
Opponents of the foreclosure moratorium bill argue that it could cause serious problems for Oregon’s housing market by chilling the ability of lenders. Foreclosures are also an already lengthy process and, if passed, the bill could cause some lenders to possibly wait upwards of two years for payments, officials say.
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.