One Question for Candidates: Should Portland Have Rent Control?

Lots of local office-seekers won't talk about it, even when asked.

Last week, House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) announced she'll try to repeal Oregon's ban on rent control next year.

That ban has been in place since 1985, and bars cities and counties from setting limits on how much and how fast landlords can increase monthly rents. But complaints about rent hikes pushing people out of Portland—along with a growing tenants' rights movement—are putting pressure on state leaders.

Kotek becomes the most prominent Oregon official to back a change at the state level. Portland City Council candidate Chloe Eudaly has made rent control—and an emergency rent freeze—the centerpiece of her campaign against City Commissioner Steve Novick.

We asked other Oregon office seekers: Do you support changing state law to allow rent control? Do you want Portland to adopt a rent cap?

Steve Novick, city commissioner: Yes to the state. Won't say in Portland.

"Rent increases we've seen in the last few years in Portland are insane. Virtually every economist says that rent control leads to unintended consequences, a black market, etc. There are times when all the economists are wrong, but I would want to study the issue carefully before adopting something, but we should certainly be allowed to have that conversation."

Sharon Meieran, candidate for Multnomah County Commission, District 1: Yes to the state. Won't say in Portland.

"We are experiencing a housing crisis, and the state's pre-emption should be lifted so individual jurisdictions can have a meaningful conversation about how to address the issue—with all options on the table—at the local level. I am concerned about some of the unintended consequences we've seen in other areas where certain rent control strategies have been implemented, but clearly there needs to be some mechanism of stabilization for the unprecedented rent increases our community is facing."

Eric Zimmerman, candidate for Multnomah County Commission, District 1: Yes to state. No in Portland.

"I don't think rent control is the answer, but I don't have a philosophy of state pre-emption. I'm not in favor of enacting rent control in Multnomah County, but the state shouldn't keep local jurisdictions from deciding to enact it. I'm more focused on reducing no-cause evictions."

Bud Pierce, GOP nominee for governor: No to both.

"Rent control has a poor record of controlling rent. In the short term, it's been proven effective at freezing rents, but it doesn't work well in the long term."

Ted Wheeler, mayor-elect: Yes to the state. No in Portland.

"Yes, the Legislature should give local jurisdictions as much flexibility as possible to address their own housing challenges in a manner that is consistent with local conditions. In Portland, there are other strategies (outlined in my Tenants Bill of Rights) I'd implement first to ensure a supply of housing that is affordable to average- and lower-income residents."

Kate Brown, governor: Won't say.

"Skyrocketing rents are absolutely an issue for Oregonians in every corner of the state, not just urban areas," says Brown's spokeswoman, Melissa Navas. "As we head into the 2017 legislative session, all proposals are worth considering."

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