Under the first major policy proposal of the new City Council, Portland landlords would be required to pay for the moving costs of any tenants they evict for "no cause."
The draft emergency ordinance also requires landlords to pay moving costs if they raise the rent by 10 percent or more within a 12-month period, and renters opt to move out.
Landlords would have to pay renters between $2,900 and $4,500, depending on the number of bedrooms.
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who campaigned on promises to better protect Portland renters, has drafted the ordinance—and has the support of Mayor Ted Wheeler.
"I'm really excited to be getting to do something meaningful [to protect tenants] from becoming more cost burdened, being displaced and becoming homeless," Eudaly tells WW this morning after speaking to a breakfast of state legislators who will weigh tenant protections as part of the upcoming session.
"It's also meant as leverage for them," Eudaly continues. "It's meant to send a strong message to everyone we are all being impacted by this housing crisis."
The median Portland renter makes just $30,000 a year. In all, 52 percent of renters pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent.
Eudaly expects to be able to get the three other votes required to pass an emergency ordinance, which will appear before City Council on Feb. 2. The provisions would sunset in October at the end of the housing emergency, if it's not renewed.
Meanwhile, Wheeler is proposing an resolution to make it easier for developers to get permits for affordable and workforce housing. He's asking city bureaus to come back with a plan in four weeks' time.
"Combined I believe they provide a set of comprehensive set of tools to help protect the interests of people who are currently tenants in the city of Portland who are most at risk of being priced out," says Wheeler.
On the campaign trail, Wheeler said he favored greater protections for tenants affected by "no cause" evictions, citing Seattle ordinance that heavily restricts evictions for no reason.
According to legal opinions from the state legislative counsel issued last year, current state law does not allow cities to limit or outlaw "no cause" evictions but does allow them to charge landlords moving costs.
State law also prohibits cities from enacting any form of rent control.
Seattle's ordinance restricting no cause evictions requires the city to pay half of moving costs and only applies to low-income tenants, who are given a flat amount of $3,490.
Eudaly's proposal has the support of the Portland Tenants Union, which has pushed the city to adopt a rent freeze.
"While [PTU] will continue to fight for an end to no-cause evictions and rent stabilization, this ordinance will be a tremendous and much needed relief and benefit to tenants in the meantime," says Margot Black.
"It won't ease the pain and stress of packing and moving, transitioning kids to new schools, and commuting longer distances, but at least it will help these renters lessen the financial tailspin involved in coming up with thousands of dollars for security deposits, application fees, double rent, and all the other costs of moving."
Update, 12:15 pm:
John DiLorenzo, a landlord lobbyist and attorney, says the ordinance would be illegal given the state's prohibition on rent control, noting there is a "strong likelihood" he will sue the city if the emergency ordinance passes.
"This proposed ordinance requires landlords to pay penalties (styled as relocation expenses) in the approximate amount of 3 months rent for the typical rental unit if the landlord terminates the tenancy or issues a rent increase in excess of 10% per year," he writes in an email.
"Requiring the payment of relocation expenses for rent increases is no different than imposing penalties for rent increases. Either way, the city is attempting to engage in rent control. Rent control is prohibited by state statute. We believe that this ordinance would likely not survive a court challenge. It is also unclear as to whether the proposal is intended to impact leases which terminate on their own accord."