Housing Oregon and Housing Alliance priorities for Oregon Legislative action

The Oregon State Legislature is deliberating how best to respond to the coronavirus emergency. While health care and economic support are receiving the lions share of attention, we need to remind our elected representatives to:

  • Expand protections for people who rent their homes as well as homeowners,
  • Add measures that provide direct assistance for residents of affordable housing, and,
  • Increase financial support for responses to those experiencing homelessness.

The good news is Governor Brown addressed one of our key demands by issuing an executive order Sunday to stop residential evictions during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Oregon Legislature is considering a proposed “Temporary Relief for the Duration of Emergency Declaration Immediate Actions to be Taken by the Legislature by March 31st.” The Joint Special Committee on Coronavirus Response began deliberations this past week. The legislation would include a moratorium on all for-cause residential and commercial evictions related to ability to pay rent due to the crisis as well as increase access to residential rental and mortgage assistance through Emergency Housing Assistance.

The Housing Alliance, of which Housing Oregon is a member, submitted comments March 21 to clarify and expand upon the Committee’s current proposal. Housing Oregon also submitted our original statement from March 16 advocating for a moratorium, waiving late fees, emergency funding and regulatory relief.

Contact legislative leaders working on a COVID-19 response

Here is a list of Oregon State legislators on the Joint Special Committee on Coronavirus Response.

What to advocate for?

Moratorium on evictions, rental and mortgage assistance

In addition to stopping no cause evictions, The Housing Alliance and Housing Oregon both urge legislation to suspend late fees during the crisis and set a time period, such as six months, over which rents must be repaid, as well as provide emergency funding for rent assistance to reduce the burden on residents with extremely low incomes.

Housing Alliance is calling for $25 million for emergency rental assistance and to revise the Oregon Homeowner Stabilization Initiative (OHSI), created during the last recession. Action is also needed to expand HUD’s suspension of foreclosures and evictions, which are only available to tenants and homeowners of homes with FHA mortgage insurance.

Direct assistance to regulated affordable housing providers

Regulated affordable housing built using Federal tax credits do not allow providers to decrease or waive rent payments as a result of income losses for tenants. Affordable housing CDCs will need support from the State to waive unpaid rent accrued as a result of the crisis as well as continue their essential operations.

Housing Alliance suggests providing direct assistance to affordable housing providers whose tenants can document economic losses due to COVID-19 may be the most expeditious strategy.

People experiencing homelessness

Housing Alliance calls upon the legislature to allocate $15 million to expand shelter capacity and staffing:

  • Extend access to emergency shelters beyond typical closure dates as temperatures rise,
  • Increase resources to provide access to motels and hotels to shelter people at high risk of severe illness or experiencing illness,
  • Increase shelter capacity to ensure social distancing in order to keep beds six feet apart,
  • Increased resources to staff shelters and purchase hygiene supplies in order to replace the many elderly volunteers organizations rely upon, and,
  • Severely limit or prohibit sweeps and instead increase sanitation, provide additional handwashing stations.