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Oregon House Passes No-Cause Eviction Ban By Narrow Margin

Close vote raises question about whether bill can make it through the Senate.

House Bill 2004, a high-profile attempt to address Oregon's tight housing market, passed by a narrow 31-27 margin today on the House floor.

The bill would prohibit no-cause evictions after six months of tenancy. Such evictions have become increasingly common as markets have tightened. Just-cause evictions will still be permitted.

The bill is part of a number of housing measures aimed at alleviating pressure on tenants championed by House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and other metro-area lawmakers. HB 2004 also lifts a state-wide prohibition on rent control, which means local jurisdictions such as Portland can consider such measurs.

Although Democrats control the House by a 35 to 25 margin, Kotek struggled to get the votes she needed for the bill.

Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie), for instance, one of a half dozen moderate Democrats in the caucus, voted against the bill. In a floor speech, Witt acknowledged Oregon's housing market is extremely tight but said he feared restricting landlords' rights would make things worse.

"This bill threatens to exacerbate our existing crisis," Witt said.

Another moderate Democrat, Rep. Jeff Barker (D-Aloha) grudgingly provided Kotek a "yes" vote and made it clear if not for absence of state Rep. Debbie Boone (D-Cannon Beach), who was absent because of a family medical issue, he would also have voted "no."

"I do not like this bill," Barker said on the floor. "But I'm going to vote 'yes' for my good friend and colleague Debbie Boone."

The measure now moves to the Senate, which Democrats control 17-13, but whose members are typically more conservative than House Democrats.

Related: The Senate Democrat who could block rent control owns an east Portland housing complex.