Oregon legislators have approved an emergency bill extending the state's moratorium on residential evictions until June 30, 2021. The vote, held during Oregon's third special legislative session of 2020, comes just ten days before the state's current moratorium expires.
"If we do not pass this bill, thousands of families will be homeless come January," said Rep. Julie Fahey, the Lane County legislator who sponsored the bill, during the legislation's reading Monday. "And it will be on us."
By 5:30 pm on Monday's one-day special session, both the House and Senate had approved the bill. Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign the legislation.
The new eviction ban is slightly more detailed than the current moratorium. This new policy only applies to renters who send their landlord a "declaration of financial hardship," explaining how the pandemic or wildfires (or both) have impacted their ability to pay rent. Despite these hardships, those tenants will still be required to repay all missed rent by July 1, 2021.
The bill also includes financial support for property owners, creating a grant fund for landlords that could cover up to 80 percent of lost rent due to their tenants' inability to pay. This portion of the legislation drew bipartisan opposition Monday. Rep. Mark Meek, a Clackamas County Democrat, said it was unfair that landlords had to sacrifice earnings due to something they had no control over.
"Why is it that Oregon housing providers are being forced to forgo 20 percent of revenue just to access relief?" Meek asked before voting against the bill.
Other Democrats, like Portland Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer and Salem Rep. Brian Clem, said it was on the state legislature to come up with that extra 20 percent in 2021, but the urgency of extending the current moratorium came before securing these funds.
Some Republicans used the vote as an opportunity to criticize Brown's response to COVID-19.
"None of us want to see people evicted from their homes," said Sen. Tim Knopp, a Republican representing Bend. "But that’s not why they’re evicted. They would be evicted because they lost their job and are unable to pay their rent. And that was a policy decision made by the governor."
This sentiment was echoed by far-right protesters gathered outside the Capitol's chambers Monday, several of whom broke windows, assaulted journalists, and maced police during the morning demonstration. State police have arrested at least two people for crimes related to the event, which centered on the far-right's opposition to Brown's COVID-19 regulations.
The state eviction ban aligns with several other recently-approved eviction moratoriums within other levels of government.
On Thursday, Multnomah County Board of Commissioners approved an extension to the countywide eviction ban to July 2, 2021—placing it in alignment with the state's newly approved timeline. Meanwhile, members of Congress are poised to pass a second COVID-19 relief package that would extend the current federal eviction moratorium through the month of January, with the expectation that President-elect Joe Biden will continue the ban once he enters office on January 20.
Both state and county legislators are looking to the federal government to fill the financial gaps in their stop-gap eviction bans—like a plan to help tenants who will be unable to repay lost rent, or landlords with unpaid mortgage bills.