ONTARIO — After nearly four hours of hearing oral and written testimony during a public hearing on Monday, a Senate committee recommended a “do pass” on a proposed rent stabilization bill. Senate Bill 608 Oregon will now advance to the Senate floor for a vote.

The bill would eliminate the potential for many “no cause” evictions on residential tenancies. It also would cap annual rental increases, according to a news release from the Oregon Legislature.

Realtor Marty Justus, who is also a city councilor for Ontario, was one of the many people to send his comments for consideration, and expressed his disappointment this morning at the committee’s decision — albeit not passing the Senate at this point.

“I’m pretty sure they’re going to pass it,” he said. “They are blatantly disregarding the rest of the state, which is consistently what they’ve done.”

While the move might be good for Salem or Portland, Justus said, it is not necessarily for the better in eastern Oregon, where the majority of rental owners are retired.

“The more burdens we put on them, they’ll sell, reducing the rentals we already have.

As a Realtor, Justus has already seen this playing out in the Western Treasure Valley.

“Right now, we’ve got people buying brand new houses in Fruitland for rentals,” he said. “Then these middle class families are living in Fruitland and coming back here to work.”

Furthermore, Justus said, there is not going beyond city boundaries to build.

“They’re dramatically keeping us from growing,” he said.

Justus had sent a letter to House Speaker Tina Kotek on Jan. 28 asking her to reconsider her position on requiring the entire state to be included in SB 608, and was asked on Monday to send some more feedback for the hearing.

For renters, however, the bill would provide certainty for Oregon’s renters by ensuring they won’t face enormous and unforeseen rent increases or be kicked out of their homes, according to the news release.

According to the news release, “The bill prohibits landlords from terminating month-to-month tenancies without cause after one year of occupancy. Tenants would be entitled to advanced written notice, ranging from 30 to 90 days, if they are going to be evicted. The bill also would cap annual rent increases to 7 percent – plus the consumer price index – over the existing year’s rents. Landlords who fail to comply with those provisions would pay three months’ rent, plus actual damages, to the tenants affected by the eviction or rent increase.”

Sen. Shemia Fagan, D-Portland, chairs the Senate Housing Committee and is a leader on the issue of housing.

“Last December, I met an 83-year-old renter who was afraid to ask maintenance to fix her lights for fear of eviction or a rent spike,” Fagan said in the news release. “She had lived in the dark for 3 months by the time I met her. SB 608 protects her and hundreds of thousands of Oregonians who deserve safe and stable rental housing.”

“Today, working hard is no guarantee that you will be able to put a roof over your head — let alone a healthy and stable one,” said Habitat for Humanity of Oregon Executive Director Shannon Vilhauer in written testimony. “We believe Oregon is better than that. Every Oregonian should be able to find a decent and affordable place to live. Diligent renters deserve the opportunity to plant roots in their local communities.”


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