Stabilize housing for Oregonians and keep us all safe!

Local and state lawmakers

The temporary protections, limited relief, year-long shutdowns, and stay-at-home mandates have resulted in us being worse off now compared to before the pandemic for no fault of our own.

Our friends, families, and neighbors lack the financial stability to afford rent while our governments fail to take action that protects our housing stability and ensures our safety, especially for our most at risk community members.

To: Local and state lawmakers
From: [Your Name]

You’ve managed the pandemic, now stabilize housing for Oregonians and keep us all safe!

We are a tenant-led, housing justice advocacy group in support of maintaining the continued safety of all Oregon renters and homeowners throughout the pandemic.

Lowering the curve of the pandemic was an important first step in creating a safe environment for Oregonians. However, the economic impact has been devastating and we are on the edge of an eviction emergency.

At the close of the pandemic and eviction moratorium, many of our friends, families, and neighbors will lack the financial stability to afford rent. The temporary protections, limited relief, year-long shutdowns, and stay-at-home mandates have resulted in the following:

- A stalled Oregon economy with mass business disruptions and closures
- 7%-13% unemployment plundering tens of thousands of previously stable renters into financial ruin, left with thousands of dollars in back-rent-debt disproportionately impacting low-income communities of color
- A growing rent debt burden for an estimated 89,000 Oregon households owning approximately $378 million as of February 2021
- Home losses by homeowners in foreclosure
- A high mass eviction risk for unemployed and underemployed renters after the eviction moratorium ends on June 30, 2021

Distressed renters are asking, “How can we afford our full rent going forward, plus back- rent payments starting July 1, 2021 without stable, full time, living wage jobs?”

Renters with annual incomes of $40,000 or less are lamenting, “We don’t make enough to afford a 2nd rent payment and our basic expenses.”

Housing stabilization is critical for maintaining our community safety but Oregon's relief and assistance efforts are grossly insufficient:

- Eviction moratoriums are not long enough, require inaccessible hurdles like hardship declarations, and do not address the back-owed rent that has been piling up for many people.
- The Landlord Compensation Fund, our state’s primary form of COVID-19 housing assistance scores based on landlord size and the percent of rent debt and prioritizes landlords and banks with the greatest amounts of lost profits NOT low-income tenants at high risk of eviction or homeowners at high risk of foreclosure; is voluntary, allowing landlords to decide if they will seek compensation on behalf of their tenants or evict and replace them with higher income earners; leaves tenants powerless because only landlords can apply; and only covers back rent, so tenants continue to fall behind on future obligations;
- Decisions are made about how to allocate rental assistance without meaningful representation from and without accountability to communities most affected by our eviction emergency, including renters experiencing housing insecurity; houseless community members; low-income residents; people of color; immigrants and especially undocumented immigrants; unemployed and underemployed workers; single-parent households; seniors; and disabled persons.
- The amount of funding allocated for housing stabilization fails to meet the growing needs of tens of thousands of impacted households in dire and urgent situations.

We need your help!

There is no one size fits all solution to our housing emergency and we do not have all of the answers, but we recognize when a preventable crisis is looming. Allowing tens of thousands of neighbors and families to fall victim to pandemic induced houselessness would result in catastrophic devastation for our cities and communities.

To prevent an imminent eviction emergency, ensure community safety, and rebuild Oregon’s economy, we need our local and state governments to:

- Extend the eviction moratorium, allowing time for the Oregon economy to regain stable business activity and jobs.
- Help tenants secure living-wage jobs in stable and growing industries, offering education, special training, and funding and prioritizing low-income tenants and people of color.
- Extend the rent repayment period for 24 months after tenants establish stable employment.
- Prioritize unemployed and very low-income tenants for receiving back-rent funding and housing vouchers, targeting people of color and other vulnerable renter populations.
- Provide post-pandemic rehousing support for tenants facing eviction, including case management; temporary and permanent replacement housing; funding for applications, rent deposits, fees, and moving expenses; and services such as free storage of belongings, pet day-care, and transportation.
- Provide legal representation during eviction court.
- Ensure impacted communities are meaningful represented in decision making about how to allocate housing assistance resources; build structures of accountability to renters experiencing housing insecurity, houseless community members, low-income residents, people of color, immigrants, unemployed and underemployed workers, single-parent households, seniors, disabled persons.

To prevent a foreclosure crisis, we need our governments to:

- Reinstate the moratorium on foreclosures that ended on December 31, 2020.
- Enact a grace period for landlords unable to pay due to tenant protection measures.
- Provide an option for affected homeowners and landlords to pay unpaid installments at the end of the loan.
- Guarantee forgiveness of interest during the moratorium period and ensure no negative credit impact.
- Prioritize small landlords in landlord assistance programs.

To prevent an eviction crisis that will span over the next one to five years, our governments need to:

- Freeze rent increases for at least two years after the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency.
- Give tenants the right of first refusal to purchase the property they live in when it is going to be sold and provide down payment support, prioritizing low income tenants and people of color.
- Include mass evictions, housing shortage, job loss, displacement, and houselessness as “Emergencies” in the Statewide “Declaration of state of emergency” (ORS 401.165)

We are counting on you to protect our housing and our lives. Do not let us down. We cannot afford it.