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:
Here's DiLorenzo's full statement on his clients' plan: