PROTECTING PORTLAND'S vulnerable tenants from a crazy rental market—where no-cause evictions and rent hikes in the triple digits have become relatively common—has city officials considering creative ways to keep people from losing their homes.
A few weeks ago, Mayor Charlie Hales declared Portland is in the midst of a housing emergency. And on October 7, Portland City Council made it official, unanimously passing legislation that could set the stage for new housing and shelter space.
This week, city council plans to consider another proposal: Extending the amount of notice landlords are required to give tenants when kicking them out without cause—from either 30 or 60 days, depending on length of tenancy, to 90 days. The hope is that it will give renters a little more breathing room when looking for new housing in an extremely tight market.
But tenant advocates are wondering what good the extra time would really do. Margot Black, a math instructor at Lewis & Clark College, has been evicted without cause twice, along with her husband and two kids. She argues an extension would amount to little real help.
"Our 2011 unplanned move, with two young children underfoot, devastated us financially," she says. "We lost all our meager savings, maxed credit cards, and fell behind on other payments. That no-cause eviction is the reason we are not homeowners."
To illustrate the point, Black has been showing off a detailed spreadsheet outlining just how much moving really costs—a portion of which we're highlighting in the diagram above.
Moving to a new apartment can mean having to come up with a sizeable chunk of money for a deposit, plus paying first and last month's rent, but that's just a starting point, Black says.
"The move-in expenses: application fees, deposits, double rent for overlap in both units—or hotels and storage to avoid double rent, or hotels and replacement cost of items that had to be discarded due to not being able to afford storage—are really non-optional," she says. "These expenses are substantial and are the reason that many people cannot afford to move."
According to Black's calculations, a move can cost a renter upward of $7,000. She figured in the cost of boxes and a moving van, lost wages for time spent moving and cleaning, and increased travel time and daycare following a move that put her family farther from work and school.
It's an intriguing look that offers a more comprehensive picture than the one city council's likely to consider on Wednesday. It's also not convincing to everyone.
Joe Cortright, president of Impresa Economics, took a look at Black's document and questioned some of her calculations, calling them "a high-end, worst-case scenario." He points out the expenses Black details apply to any move, planned or not.
"If I really believed the costs were that high," Cortright says, "I think the moving rate would be much lower."
Black says that's part of the point: A no-cause eviction or untenable rent increase is often a worst-case scenario for Portland's renters.
To view Black's entire spreadsheet, click here.