Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s Tenant Screening Rules May Now Have the Votes Needed to Pass City Council

Commissioner Fish's office praises Eudaly's efforts at revising the policy.

The Carson and other apartments springing up in Slabtown. (Justin Katigbak)

City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly's tenant screening-criteria and security-deposit regulations will come back to council next Thursday, May 23—after gaining new support.

City Commissioner Nick Fish's office offered encouraging comments this week, a signal of his potential support.

"We appreciate Commissioner Eudaly's collaborative approach," says Fish chief of staff Sonia Schmanski. "They've been working hard to earn Council support, and have been especially receptive to our concerns around legal risk and ease of use. There's been a lot of great conversation at the staff level to work through questions and concerns, and they're taking the time to build a good product."

Fish could be the third vote needed to pass the ordinance. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has been generally supportive of Eudaly's ordinance.

The policy has received high-profile opposition from landlord lobby, including over the requirements legislating limitation on turning down a tenant who has a criminal background.

At the last hearing, the issue of how Hardesty questioned a property manager became a matter of conflict. Mayor Ted Wheeler called for civility, and the Urban League of Portland criticized the mayor's comments as racist.

The revised draft will be released on Monday or Tuesday, says Eudaly's office. A vote won't be taken on Thursday, because the Council will be discussing a revised version.

Eudaly's policy director, Jamey Duhamel, says the ordinance has been streamlined to make it clearer.

"The largest changes that people will notice is that it's been redrafted, reorganized and reworded to make the intentions very clear," she says. "We're happy with a new version, very substantively does the same thing as the previous draft that is much more direct and understandable in its intentions."

There have been policy changes "to streamline the process" and "help minimize the administrative burdens and costs" to landlords "with compromising the outcome."

That includes making clear that the "first come, first served" requirement does not eliminate a landlord's discretion over choosing whether to approve an applicant or not, so long as the reason is not discriminatory, says Duhamel.

There has been at least one key substantive policy change.

Instead of requiring landlords to set the minimum income required for an apartment at two times the rent, the new policy will benchmark the requirement to apartments affordable to 80 percent of area median income: above that, landlords will be required to accept income that's twice the rent; below that the requirement will be 2.5 times the rent.

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