Under pressure to respond to the rising cost of housing, the state's landlord lobby is circulating a proposal to create a $25 million annual Oregon renter assistance program.
Like Section 8-style vouchers, the program would pay a portion of the rent for low-income tenants, funded by auctioning tax credits.
It could help 20,000 renters a year if on average the fund awards $100 a month to each renter, says John DiLorenzo, a lobbyist for landlord group Equitable Housing PAC.
The current proposal calls for the program to be administered by a nonprofit and for landlords to opt into the program, which could require them to limit rent increases as well.
The proposal comes after Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek announced her support for overturning the state's ban on rent control and ending "no-cause" evictions.
Kotek dismissed the offer of common ground from the landlords as a "deliberate attempt to mislead."
DiLorenzo says his group is looking for solutions that will help "households in need," and that Kotek's plan won't work.
Economist Joe Cortright gave the landlords' proposal mixed reviews, calling it a "broader-based way of addressing the affordability issue" than inclusionary zoning, the city's housing bond or rent control, but one that would, nonetheless, result in higher rents across the market.
"It's like handing out cups of gasoline at a wildfire," he says, explaining that more renters able to pay higher rents would increase demand for apartments, resulting in higher prices. "The real solution has to be figuring out how to do more supply."
Affordable housing advocates argued that the state should carefully weigh how best to spend its housing dollars or tax credits, instead of moving forward with the landlords' proposal.
"This program will have a cost. It is not free," said Alison Macintosh, of Stable Homes for Oregon Families coalition. "If we can identify more funding for affordable housing and rental assistance, then we should talk about the best way to use those resources to assist Oregonians in need of housing support."
Here's Kotek's full statement:
We already have rental assistance programs in place, but they are underfunded and oversubscribed. A new, complicated, tax-payer funded giveaway to landlords would simply allow them to keep raising rents, while doing nothing to solve the problems facing renters across our state. Instead, this proposal is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public and make it appear as if certain property owners are trying to do something about the crisis. We need an open, honest debate about how to solve Oregon’s complex housing issues, and this misleading proposal is a step in the wrong direction.
Here's DiLorenzo's full statement on his clients' plan:
Our organizations oppose the speaker’s desire to impose rent control and remove the tools building owners and managers need to maintain safe communities. As owners who have on the ground experience, we can attest that the Speaker’s vision will create a hyper inflated housing market similar to that in San Francisco and other rent controlled communities. That said, we recognize that many renters believe they are being priced out of the market as a result of the increased demand for and limited supply of housing in our state. That is why we are proposing a tenant assistance program, modeled after the federal section 8 program, to help tenants navigate through the current imbalance between supply and demand. Although Speaker Kotek has commented on the proposal, we have yet to have an opportunity to meet with her to discuss it. If she is willing to keep an open mind and work with us, we are confident we can produce a program that can help a minimum of 20,000 households in need.