Kayse Jama and Julie Fahey
Jama, a Democrat, represents Senate District 24 of Portland in the Oregon Legislature and chairs the Senate Housing Committee. Fahey, a Democrat, represents House District 14-West Eugene / Junction City in the Oregon Legislature and chairs the House Committee on Housing.
Since the start of the pandemic, our state has been committed to keeping Oregonians at home during this crisis. We started mortgage and rental assistance programs, and we put in eviction and eviction protections that were successful in keeping people housed.
But currently, more than 10,000 families in Oregon are at risk of losing their homes through no fault of their own. They have completed an application for rental assistance, yet they are still at risk of eviction due to delays in processing such applications.
No Oregonians should be evicted while rental assistance is in progress. This is why we are supporting a special legislative session called by Governor Kate Brown for December. 13. As Chairs of the Oregon House and Senate Housing Committees, we have devised a plan to keep people housed during the holiday season while ensuring that landlords are fully paid.
As of June of this year, a moratorium on evictions came to an end and nearly $ 300 million in federal rent assistance funding had been made available through the brand new rental assistance program. Oregon emergency. The legislature recognized the need to protect tenants from eviction while these funds were being distributed, passing Senate Bill 278 in an almost unanimous bipartisan vote.
This “safe harbor” bill created a 60-day window temporarily protecting those who applied for rental assistance from eviction for non-payment of rent. The law was designed to give the state and its partners more time to process claims and send money to homeowners. But due to the large volume of applications, it took rental assistance providers in some parts of the state significantly longer than expected to process applications, including a county with an average processing time of 130. days.
This means that more than 10,000 low-income households who have asked for help have now passed their eviction shelter window. They could be deported at any time now, even if we have the funds to help them. The legislature must extend this deportation period to protect these Oregon residents while their applications are being processed.
For the special session, we plan to present a bill that will provide additional state funding of $ 200 million to support both tenants and landlords. The money would go towards rent assistance, eviction prevention services and the program to make landlords free of any rent during the period of refuge that is not covered by rent assistance. These investments will be combined with an extension of the Safe Harbor that will protect tenants while their application is being processed.
With this plan, we can ensure that tenants can continue to ask for help and that landlords awaiting rent will be paid. Plus, the additional funding would help solve another problem – Oregon residents in need have requested more rent assistance than the federal government has allocated, forcing the state to withhold new requests to the government. Oregon’s emergency rental assistance program, although the need for rental assistance is still great.
Oregon is not the only state where high levels of need have made it difficult to obtain rental assistance, and we are not the only state to have a safe eviction regime in place for protect tenants in this situation. Both Minnesota and Nevada have passed bipartisan legislation to create safe eviction policies for tenants with pending applications. Now it’s our turn to show up and do the same.
Evictions have devastating consequences for individuals, families and communities. Even a short period of homelessness or housing instability can cause generational damage. As a state, it is much more difficult and costly to reach people who have already lost stable housing than to prevent evictions.
It would be tragic if the people of Oregon lose their homes because the money available to help them does not reach them on time. Lawmakers have the power and the responsibility to prevent this from happening by approving our plan in next week’s special session.
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