Tenants call for longer moratorium on evictions


A prominent Oregon tenant group is warning that current tenant eviction bans are ending and could lead to a massive crisis if Oregon elected officials do not extend protections to tenants.

About 80% of the state’s 35,000 households that fully apply for rental assistance in the event of a pandemic have yet to be approved. Yet their protection against evictions ends 60 to 90 days after submitting documentation of a request for state assistance. For many, the deadline could come this month.

“Right now, the Oregon Rental Assistance Program is failing,” said Kim McCarty, executive director of the Community Alliance of Tenants, speaking outside the Oregon state capital as the legislature prepared to meet for a special session on redistribution. “We need to take bold action. “

Portland State University estimated in June that the problem could be much bigger. Their study suggests that 125,000 Oregonians were at risk of deportation, which could cost the government $ 4.7 billion in emergency shelters, medical bills, child welfare services and juvenile justice, according to the estimate. That’s the figure McCarty cited this morning when trying to advocate for urgent action now.

The tenant group is demanding Governor Kate Brown call a special session to extend the moratorium on evictions until all the rent relief has been distributed. The group also called on Oregon to streamline the process for applying for rent relief, following a process approved by the federal government.

Brown’s office, when contacted by WW, said she would consult with legislative leaders on the call for a special session.

“The governor knows … that thousands of homes are still at risk of eviction and in need of assistance as immediately as possible,” spokesman Charles Boyle said. “This is why the OHCS [Oregon Housing and Community Services] and its partners continue to rapidly increase their membership, use all the flexibility our federal funders will allow to expedite the approval of applications and focus on households most at risk of eviction. “

After the moratorium on evictions was lifted in late June, the state legislature granted tenants 60 days of eviction protection if they had a letter certifying their request for rental assistance. In Multnomah County, this has been extended to 90 days. This was in part so that the state could pay rent assistance to community groups, but much has yet to be paid.

The amount of money that should be available to tenants in Oregon is staggering: more than $ 800 million in rental assistance linked to COVID. But it is not yet known whether this is sufficient to meet the needs, even if the program has rolled out slowly.

The governor’s office says landlords have reason to wait for payments: They don’t receive tenant funds if they evict them before the tenant receives the money.

“We also know that Oregon landlords, some of whom are struggling economically themselves, are much more likely to be cured if they forgo evicting tenants who are still in the process of applying.” , Boyle said. “Housing assistance applications are put on hold if landlords evict, which means landlords won’t get the funds they would otherwise have received. “

McCarty, executive director of CAT, disputed the governor’s response.

“The response from the governor’s office does not demonstrate an understanding of the complexity of the application process,” replied McCarty. “We urge Governor Brown to take it for herself and see the difficulties tenants have in getting even their Safe Harbor letter.”

“Regarding the claim that landlords won’t evict, we’ve spent the last 18 months chatting with tenants who have seen landlords refuse repairs, harass tenants regularly, and leave tenants without even letting them know. drinking water for paying the rent, ”adds McCarty. “While some low-income landlords may wait for rent assistance to be processed, evictions have increased dramatically and many tenants don’t have time to hope for the goodwill of landlords… We can’t pull the money off. grass beneath the feet of our most vulnerable communities. due to arbitrary delays.

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