Could a Rent Strike Work in Portland?

People Are Talking About It More and More

Comments

1
Great so there is going to be some available apartments soon.
2
Maybe they heard my advice. If everyone can get together and agree that they are fucked and have no rights, then they can all agree to rebel! Everything comes down to agreements on paper somewhere. Stop agreeing with the paper and start agreeing more with each other. When the notice shows up, don't pay, don't leave. When one or two Sheriff's show up to tell you to leave... don't. Call in the Alliance and give em hell!! If every eviction costs the city $100,000 to enforce, they'll stop enforcing the laws or finally change them. Just agree people.
3
Don't go away quietly, but save some strength for protesting on behalf of the homeless. When you get evicted and have no place to store your handgun, it's a good thing you already got the concealed carry permit before you were kicked to the curb.

Helpful hint: Banks are sitting on a shit load of foreclosed upon realty, keeping it off the market to create an artificial shortage in order to keep real estate prices high. Look around for vacant unlisted houses, and consider the legal method of becoming a squatter.
4
It isn't a right if you take away from someone else.
5
The use of government power to steal other's property is wrong.
6
"Portland Tenants United (PTU)—a loosely structured group whose members have been organizing for months via Facebook—put together the event, but a variety of speakers were on hand to offer thoughts."

"Loosely structured group" is what I expect from mainstream media pretending it doesn't know what's going on. Moreover, PTU has been meeting FACE TO FACE for months, every week almost, at KBOO (5-7PM Sundays). Also left unmentioned is the OPEN HOUSE we are holding at LUCKY LAB on Hawthorne on January 30th, a Saturday, from 12-3pm.

Portland Tenants United is organizing tenants into a tenants union, to operate with direct action in tenant communities and on a collective basis, and have repeated it again and again. The idea isn't just to use rent-strikes to pressure legal change, but fluorganize tenants to defend one another and pursue collective bargaining agreements ahead of the pro-landlord legislature and local government. As their flier for the open house on the 30th says "together we can control the rent".

https://libcom.org/blog/portland-tenants-united-goals-united-tenants-union-19112015
7
Jim, you should come to the Open House and talk about that. One thing I've learned is all the landlords, the propertarians, and their peon aspirants are scared children when it comes to tenant and worker power, not because of any real risk of physical harm but because they're too chicken-shit to deal with the shame.
8
Big difference between a rent strike in a CITY-OWNED building in liberal Frisco, and a strike against private landlords and property management companies. And how many people will bother to put the rent money in escrow? It may just get spent, and I'm not sure the IWW will be much help to you when you're evicted and don't have money to move, even if you can find a place that won't bother to call your old landlord for a reference.
9
Hey Red Renter, 1. I do not own any rental property. 2. I am not so chicken shit that I don't my use my real name. 3. I can see your argument about stealing people's property is rather empty because instead of providing a cogent argument you start name calling. 4. Basically the group is pressuring the government to steal property. 5. It will end badly for the tenants. In every case where this type of thing occurs - government intervention in markets - including rental markets - the price goes up more or the availability goes down dramatically. For example, in NYC the rent control apartments are such a wonderful thing if you can get one. The waiting list is 14 years. 5. You guys are so clueless about basic economics and what would fix this problem and unwilling to discuss it that it is not worth my time trying to speak. I have much better things to do with my time. (You don't even have the basic vocabulary about the problem to participate in the discussion.) You think the world owes you a living. It doesn't. Grow up.
10
dozens = hundreds (we counted at least 200), and I'll echo what Red Renter said above about the mischaracterization of PTU as "loosely structured" and "organizing via Facebook". It is unfortunate that the reporter did not reach out to someone at PTU to get accurate information on the organization, its goals and structure, and the rally count. We have met regularly since May, built strong relationships and coalitions with allied organizations, and done a lot of foundational work in order to be ready to build capacity.
11
Jim, my name's Joe. I'm one of the founding organizers of PTU, and I'll be at the open house (will you?). I'll agree that name-calling is in poor taste, and I'm sorry if you took a general remark personally, but what can you expect when you are taking the side of exploiters in a conversation with the exploited? We disagree vehemently about property and human rights. But, then again, so did abolitionists and slavers. We simply do not believe that profit and all the boss-control prerogatives that typically flow from it should be allowed to GOVERN access to housing.

You yourself admit that "the rent control apartments [in NYC] are such a wonderful thing if you can get one." Really?! Such a wonderful thing?! You lament the waitlist, but seem completely ignorant of how landlords, real estate capitalists, and their lobbyists fight for exceptions and loop-holes that undermine the rent-control housing-stock. You also seem to misunderstand the way a union works: on the whole, there are more tenants and allies than can be locked up or evicted, and directly confronting landlords with rent-strikes, sit-ins, pickets and public COLLECTIVE action is every bit as much a part of the program as appealing to the government to change the law.
12
My overwhelming thought in reading this blog, most certainly promoting ill-advised action, is What the Fuck Shelby?!!!!
I don't own rentals either, but jesus christ, why are you giving lip service to an idea that can hurt so many people, whether they be renters or owners?
Oh, wait, you are trying to sell yourself as a Writer. Scratch that, a Reporter.
Hey, if it bleeds it leads, right?
13
Please please dont pay rent so I can boot you out !! having 10 rentals sure I would loose almost 10k for a month but after you are gone I will make double
14
What's more effective:
not paying rent?
not opposing new housing where even if you can't afford to live there, someone else will who would otherwise move into your place after you're evicted for not paying rent?
15
@ Ron Eng: Please. It is not going to be just your 10 units. Tens of thousands, or even thousands of people rent striking at once means absolute chaos at the courthouse to process evictions and then some trying to enforce said evictions. That leads to gridlock faster that I can type it. Large scale rent-strikes are impossible to quash. Read about them. Try to think through your arguments before posting them too.
16
Why stop at a rent strike? How about a general strike? This issue should be wrapped together with the issue of substandard wages being paid by employers throughout the metro area.
17
I'm down to stop paying rent in protest. But hopefully the guy subletting my basement and my Air BnB guests in my second bedroom don't stop paying me, because I really need that cash!
18
@Margot Black
My count was ~300. Great turnout, great job by the organizers.
19
Randyzpdx,

You should come to either the "Town Hall for Living Wages and Tenants Rights" at the Rosewood Initiative 16126 SE Stark St 7-9pm Monday January 25th AND/OR the Portland Tenants United Open House on January 30th at the SE Hawthorne Lucky Lab 12-3.

There's no one saying "just rent-strike, no more", but low-hanging fruit for the most people, right now, is housing (you can make well over minimum wage or even $15 an hour, and still be priced out or evicted without cause). Getting the masses on board with a general strike will take successful actions leading up to that, and rent-strikes need not be completely City-Wide, all or nothing, to be effective at that or in their own right.
20
It's hilarious to see a bunch of white middle class kids who moved to Portland BY CHOICE throw a temper tantrum about the very problem they created. "Oh I'll just work at a coffee shop or whatever," they all said while concentrating real hard on anything BUT getting a decent-paying career track started. Well kids, the writing's been on the wall for at least a decade now, what have you been doing all this time? Flicking your bean at "Star Wars Burlesque"? And now you're upset that you can't live next door to the combination Sizzle Pie / Little Big Burger yuppieplex that went up as soon as the slightly-more-well-heeled heard exactly what you once did: that Portland's cheap, it's cool and there are plenty of poors and minorities in inner neighborhoods to displace with generic beer-bike-DIY-indie-rock bullshit (we'll call it an "Arts District!"). Well, you could have fixed the poor part for yourself, but you didn't, and now you get a taste of your own medicine. Suck it, shitbeasts!
21
The banks got bailed out by tax payers. Now, foreclosed upon property is held off the market to keep values high. I suppose the tax payers are also mortgage payers who don't like the idea of being under water, to have their realty become worth less than the loan to be repaid, and would prefer to think that their houses are actually an investment, even a good one, than for there to be abundant, affordable housing.
22
If you want to lock in your rent, sign a multi-year lease. The freedom and flexibility of month-to-month comes at a cost. The landlord is on the hook for mortgage, taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc., plus a sunk cost downpayment, plus the risk of being wiped out equity-wise in the event of a fire, earthquake, or other disaster.

If you strike against a landlord by withholding rent that is going to pay that mortgage, and the landlord doesn't have sufficient extra cash on hand to cover those costs (which many single-property or family-owned house landlords don't), you're going to come back to the strike to a property in foreclosure that's going to be taken away, owned by a bank, and sold off to a giant Wall St. holding company who outsources the property management to someone who could give two shits about the condition of the property.

There are many tools to attack the housing crisis, but a city-wide rent strike against any and all landlords is a stupid idea that is going to hurt a lot of people. Make sure it's targeted towards corporate-owned buildings.
23
Ease off on Shelby. She's a good journalist and her only bias I see, seems to be on the side of the less fortunate and their fair treatment. She is always on our team. My wife and I loved her coverage when she was reporting on that Shell Oil ship trying to carry it's cargo of bilge making tools and machinery to the pristine arctic waters. So she called 300 by precise count only dozens and called PTU loosely structured (I admit is one of those overworked empty terms), but hey don't snipe at and try to discredit an ally. This gentrification = greed = homelessness crisis is too important to get so touchy about. PTU advocates and volunteers grow a little harder bark on you and accept help. Swallow your pride, before you gag on it.
24
FlavioSuave, if a landlord wants to avoid a rent-strike they can always agree to cut rent to cost (if not also re-bargain a rental contract WITH the tenant through their union), and if pressed stand on the side of the tenants and their union against the bank. The banks aren't any scarier than the landlords when you've decided you're going to stand up to them collectively. The landlords and the banks use the same sheriff to enforce their property rights, and they've been pressured to stop evictions before*. If anything, you highlight just how the 1% act through "mom and pop" as well as the corporados to extract unearned wealth out of us, which no landlord small or big has a right to be the agent of. You seem smart. You should come to the open house. SE Lucky Lab Jan. 30th 12-3

*This was not here, but the point is it is not implausible. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-10-09/news/0810090029_1_evictions-rent-paying-sheriff-tom-dart "As the nationwide mortgage crisis puts the squeeze on homeowners, the Cook County sheriff's office is on pace to evict more people than ever from foreclosed homes. At least it was until Wednesday, when Sheriff Tom Dart announced he wouldn't do it anymore. Dart cited the growing number of evictions that involve rent-paying tenants who suddenly learn their building is in foreclosure because the landlord neglected to pay the mortgage. By refusing to do any foreclosure-related evictions, the hope is that banks will reform their policies."
25
This is a laughable idea, provides absolutely zero long-term solutions to a wide problem, and is just another way for the self obsessed, wannabe "revolutionary" children set to pat themselves on the back (the ridiculous "occupy" movement being their most recent great tantrum). I agree that we need to address the supply of affordable rentals issue in this town, but this is about the most ass backwards way to do it. Go ahead and "strike", and even if you get a rent reduction, you have created a highly tenuous relationship with your landlord who will do everything in their power to see you get out of their unit as soon as legally possible and sure as hell isn't going to re-up a lease with you when the time comes. Then, you are right back in the rat race of trying to find a market rate apartment in this crazy market ruled by undersupply of units.

I must say this truly is one of the most ridiculous ideas I have seen in a while....
26
"if a landlord wants to avoid a rent-strike they can always agree to cut rent to cost"

Red Renter - but exactly what "cost" are you talking about?

Let's take an "average" price of a home in Portland - it's currently above $300k, but let's use $300k as a nice round number to make the math easier and pretend it's an average 2 bed/1bath bungalow (which you can barely find for $300k in a close-in neighborhood anyway).

There's the cost of the downpayment, meaning an initial sunk cost of $60k. That's $60k you can't spend or do anything else with because it's now a fixed asset. Add in closing costs, initial repairs, etc., and you're easily talking another $5-10k even on a house that doesn't need a ton of work. If it's a fixer, add a couple ten thousand more.

So you're already in for $70k.

Mortgage payment on a $240k loan at 4% (which only applies right now and will probably go up) is about $1150/mo.

Taxes on a $300k assessed value will be around $4,500/yr, so another $375/mo, which means we're already up to $1,525/mo.

Are we already above "cost" for what you consider a "fair" rent for a 2 bed/1 bath bungalow in a close-in PDX neighborhood? Because wait, there's more!

Insurance - add $500/yr, so another $45/mo, which means we're up to $1570/mo.

Repairs and maintenance - even just basic repairs, maintenance, and replacement of systems that eventually wear out (furnace/AC, roof, washer/dryer, dishwasher, etc.) can be anywhere from $1k/yr to over $20k if it's a major replacement. So you need to have enough extra cash on hand to cover those eventualities, and can't often predict when things will need to be replaced. A conservative average over the lifetime of the house is probably $2,000/yr., so let's say another $165/mo. to make sure those costs are covered and the house can be maintained (a good landlord maintains the property in good condition, right?).

So we're almost at $1,750/mo., not even counting utilities, for a modest 2 bed/1 bath PDX bungalow, and this is just monthly "cost" that doesn't even factor in the sunk downpayment and initial repairs of $60k-$70k.

And don't forget that you have to pay mortgage, interest, taxes, and insurance even if there is a tenant vacancy. Sure, there might not be one right now when the market is tight, but many Portland landlord/homeowners saw some very lean years in the mid-aughts, and were not allowed to go on strike against the banks without being foreclosed upon.

Property taxes go up every year, so increase the monthly cost every year on top of that. Plus the homeowner bears the entire risk in the event of an earthquake, fire, flood, or other disaster, that might wipe out their equity. Deductibles on disaster insurance are ridiculous, and don't cover the full cost of repair/replacement anyway.

If you're in agreement that rent a 2-bed, 1-bath house should be, at a minimum, $1,750/mo plus utilities, and maybe even a little bit of profit to compensate the landlord for the investment of the initial downpayment and the equity risk in the event of a disaster, then maybe we are somewhere on the same page here. But I suspect our numbers are pretty far apart in terms of what you and the would-be rent strikers consider "fair" rent for living close-in in a highly desirable major west coast city, which is what Portland is now for better or for worse.
27
"The banks aren't any scarier than the landlords when you've decided you're going to stand up to them collectively."

Red Renter - I'm sorry, but this is beyond naive. Getting kicked out of your rental property is nowhere near the same as being foreclosed upon and losing tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity that you've built up over a lifetime and having your credit permanently trashed.

You cite the Chicago example where the sherrif stopped foreclosure evictions. Maybe those people got to continue living in those houses for a period of time, but they still lost any and all equity they held.

Not the same at all.
30
"There are plenty of relatively cheap apartment for rent to Gresham but no one wants to move there."

Yeah, until my new show Greshamlandia comes out!
31
Sounds like a bunch of horse shit to me.
32
everyone wants change, yet everyone wants walls. Money cannot fix what it did not start- walls did it, but you hippies have fun being homeless. At least then you'll have experience life outside your privileged walls and be less averse to solutions that actually make sense and can actually restore leverage and do everything your looking for; drop rental prices for the surrounding areas.

pack a warehouse full of beds and rent them w/ no strings attached.
33
“Wake Up and Smell the Fading Roses Portlandia”


Ranting, raving and singing aside, it's time for Portlandia to step up to incoming reality, and yes, it's a nasty new show.

Shelby & Co, with all the goodness in their precious hearts, are stuck in a rut. The “me, me” rut that is running through shabby-chic little neighborhoods bursting with California pride about their sticker prices.

Wake up and smell the fading roses Portlandia. Those high priced housing prices that make you strut with cockerel pride are planted in sweet smelling manure, the politically correct term for “shit”. The incoming tide of outside “investment” is the end of your pretty rose parade and the forerunner of a vicious poverty cycle.

Rents are too high, they shout in the Square, Rent Strike ( so very California) Tenants Rights and a gabble of good intentions with no cohesive thought. All true. No denying the obvious. Except, what good will a Rent Strike do, when a majority of properties are now owned by out-of-state investment portfolios? I dare you to hunt down and have a brewski with your absent Landlord.
By the time the corporate law firms are done dancing circles around you, it will be too late to reserve your tent space under the bridge.

And creeping in between your righteous shouts the thorns of poverty are already drawing blood from your roses. Hard working families who can’t afford the continued rent hikes, must move to more “affordable” digs. Sorry Kid, you have to move schools too, forget your education, we need to pay the rent. No, it’s not safe to go out, crime is on the rise and the cops just raided and shot someone. Oh, they are raising the rents here too, again. Sorry Kid, we have to move again…
The downward spiral of high cost rents vs comatose wages.

Which brings us to our next pile of manure (remember what this Really is) on the pathway in front of you. Wages. Have to love this stinking mess that no plastic doggy bag can hide. What the hell Is a “living wage” anyway. As for “minimum wage” let’s call a spade a spade ( or shit, “shit”) and rename it; “minimalistic” and barely there. Raising the minimum wage will destroy small business! Wow, Really!! Is that the BEST shit you have to throw? Let’s jump over to China and do an uneducated “guesstimate” on the actual Cost of Things vs what we Buy them for. Holy Shit! How about a “minimum adjustment of profit”. Ouch, that would destroy Big Business and then the shit would surely hit the proverbial fan. People would actually get what they pay for, (on that minimal wage) and small business would start to thrive, (Saints save us, they might even Grow into Big Business!).

But hey, let’s get back to smelling those Portlandia Roses. Toss a dildo in protest and go on Strike. All will be well, who needs brains if you have a Cause. You might want to invest in a big shovel Portland, you’re going to need it.

The Observer.
Jan 2016