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Mayor Wheeler Announces Emergency Housing Relief Measures To Stabilize Vulnerable Households

Press release

Proposed actions would protect renters at risk of losing their housing and support renters who may need to relocate due to rent increases

Published

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced today that he will bring forward new local housing relief measures to stabilize households facing eviction and foreclosure due to COVID-19. Mayor Wheeler applauded the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield and Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s actions extending the federal eviction and state foreclosure protections through the end of the calendar year. Mayor Wheeler, Home Forward’s Executive Director Michael Buonocore, and Portland Community Reinvestment Initiative Inc.’s Executive Director Kymberly Horner shared local data about continued rent increases, outstanding loan obligations, and local solutions as many Portlanders are falling further and further behind on their rent payments and their loan repayments.

While renters have six months to repay any back rent accrued during the moratorium, data (attached PDF) presented Tuesday paint a stark picture of the impacts of COVID-19 on Portland’s already tight rental market and the growing magnitude of unpaid rent as a result of the pandemic:

  • 1 in 4 Portland renters were already paying more than half their monthly income toward rent prior to the pandemic.
  • Since May, between 12 and 15% of Portland renters have been unable to make their monthly rent payments. Among “Class C” properties, which tend to be older buildings and located farther East, the rate of non-payment during the pandemic has been closer to 20%.
  • Unpaid monthly rent totals approximately $22 - 28 million. At the current rate, Portlanders will have fallen $120 - $125 million behind on rent by the end of September, 2021.
  • Disparities in income, employment, and housing, mean that missing rent has a substantially greater impact on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, who are disproportionately renters and overrepresented in service industry occupations, where they are most vulnerable to the health and economic impacts of the pandemic. On average, Black and Indigenous households in Portland pay 40 - 60% of their incomes toward rent.
  • At pre-COVID income levels, it would take the average Black family in Portland almost six months to save enough to repay one month of back rent.

In response, Mayor Wheeler proposes emergency code changes to the city’s mandatory relocation ordinance, so that any rent increases would require landlords to pay relocation assistance to cover their tenant’s moving cost. This lowers the threshold to trigger relocation assistance in the existing code, which currently allows rent increases under 10%.

“While we are in the midst of a pandemic, we need to protect renters at risk of losing their housing and support renters who may need to relocate due to rent increases,” said Mayor Wheeler.

In addition, he has directed the Portland Housing Bureau to allocate approximately $500,000 of existing funding towards housing stabilization and relief in East Portland.

He also announced a potential Executive Order to extend the local eviction moratorium to the end of the year, absent an extension of the State’s eviction moratorium. Mayor Wheeler also underscored the important roles of State and Federal government, and financial institutions in finding solutions to the systemic impacts caused by housing instability and unpaid rent.

“Even prior to the pandemic, too many Portlanders were just one medical crisis, or family emergency, or job loss away from homelessness. We need to protect renters and we also need to make sure that local property owners who rent their homes to Portlanders are not foreclosed on because these circumstances make it impossible for them to pay back their loans,” said Mayor Wheeler. “These are temporary measures, but ensuring Portlanders stay in their homes may be the most important and effective action we can take right now.”

Click here to watch the press briefing.

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