Gov. Kate Brown listens in during a phone call on Monday, April 20, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday that she will call a special session of the state Legislature Dec. 13 to address ways to prevent evictions of renters.
Brown proposed extending eviction "safe harbor" protections for anyone who has applied for rental assistance, making sure landlords are paid fully for their owed rent, providing up to $90 million in additional rent assistance for low-income renters through the winter, and provide $100 million to transition to long-term, locally distributed eviction prevention services, according to a Tuesday news release.
“As we enter our coldest months, it is absolutely essential that we take action to ensure no additional Oregon families are evicted when rental assistance is on the way,” said Brown wrote in the news release. “I have spoken directly with Oregon renters in recent weeks about the pain and hardship their families have faced due to the economic impacts of the pandemic. We must take legislative action now to approve additional state funding for rental assistance, and to extend eviction protections for Oregonians who have applied for assistance."
Brown wrote that Oregon's federal funding for rental assistance will be nearly spent on Dec. 1, the same day that the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program will stop accepting applications for at least six weeks.
"I am continuing to work with federal officials at U.S. Treasury and the White House to secure additional federal emergency rental assistance funding for Oregon, but it is clear that a state solution is needed to address the urgent and immediate needs of Oregon renters," Brown wrote. "We must begin laying the groundwork now for the transition to local eviction prevention services after federal pandemic emergency programs draw to an end."
Oregon Housing and Community Services received $289 million in federal rental assistance funding to help tenants impacted by Covid.
OHCS, local nonprofits and service providers had paid out close to $150 million in federal emergency rental assistance to over 22,000 households as of last week, the news release said. OHCS and its partners have gotten more than 25,000 additional applications and are still reviewing and approving thousands each week. The agency calculated that all remaining federal rental assistance dollars will have been requested by Dec. 1.
“Governor Brown’s call is welcome news for the thousands of renting families and individuals who are living every day with the threat of eviction because the rent assistance they applied for has been delayed for months," reads a prepared statement from Stable Homes for Oregon Families, a tenant protections advocacy group. "We also appreciate all the state lawmakers who have been working together on a solution. Tenants are counting on the legislature to ensure no one loses their home while their applications are pending and also to provide additional funding to help keep people safe and stable during this time of ongoing economic upheaval.”