Oregon’s Rent Control Law Garners National Acclaim—and Local Criticism

National attention on the tenant protections passed in Portland as local advocates push for more.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, this week tweeted a tribute to Oregon's new law limiting rent increases.

With Gov. Kate Brown's signature on Senate Bill 608, Oregon became the only state in the country with a statewide limit on how fast landlords can raise the rent. (The restriction applies in building 15 years or older.)

The effort has attracted national attention, including in the New York Times, which offered a tenant-friendly look at the restrictions the law was putting in place.

The bill may be most signficant for largely ending no-cause evictions after a tenant's first year in a home, in part because the limit on rent increases was set at roughly 10 percent (7 percent plus inflation).

And tenant advocates across the country have heralded the bill's passage, with PolicyLink, an Oakland-based advocacy and research group, saying it was as part of a "growing tenant movement for rent control." The Oregonian reported on that trend last month.

But at home, the bill has been criticized from the left for its compromises. With a cap of roughly 10 percent a year, local advocates say it should be more properly understood as an anti-price-gouging measure.

And Portland Tenants United, a local renters-rights group, began agitating on Thursday for hearing on another bill—one that would allow cities and other localities in Portland to set a lower cap on rent increases.

Addressing a Facebook post in part to the Oregon House representative who chairs the Committee on Human Services and Housing, they asked for movement on House Bill 2540.

"Representative [Alissa] Keny-Guyer: When is the hearing?! We're eager to fill the halls of Salem with tenants across the state who are disappointed in SB 608 and want to fight for local control in Portland, and *require* local action everywhere else!" the group posted on their Facebook page.

Are you unhappy about Oregon's historic "rent stabilization" bill because it doesn't actually stabilize the rent? (10%...

Posted by Portland Tenants United on Thursday, March 7, 2019

HB 2540 is sponsored by Rep. Paul Evans is not expected to pass—not after the delicate compromise worked out behind closed doors to get HB 608 quickly through the legislature.

That bill passed with the support of the legislative leaders in the both chambers, after a deal with at least one key landlord group and without any changes to the bill during hearings.

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