Oregon lawmakers approved more than $700 million for housing needs that go beyond the emergency prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to avoiding evictions and foreclosures, the 2021 Legislature aims to increase the supply of lower-cost housing, helping people without permanent shelter, and reducing housing disparities faced by racial and ethnic minorities.
Although the grace period for payments of past-due rent from the pandemic is extended by Senate Bill 282 to Feb. 28, 2022. The moratorium on evictions ended June 30, Prompted by the slowness in state and federal funds for rental assistance reaching landlords, lawmakers gave tenants a 60-day safe harbor from evictions under Senate Bill 278 if they show proof they have applied for assistance.
Rep. Julie Fahey, a Democrat from Eugene and leader of the Housing Committee said: “Evictions and foreclosures can have a generational devastating impact on families.” She worked with Rep. Jack Zika, a Republican from Redmond, to craft both the state’s original assistance of $200 million to landlords and tenants during the Dec. 21 special session — a month before the 2021 session got down to business — and the safe-harbor provision that passed in the session’s final days. Federal aid boosted the available amount for rental assistance to around $500 million.
Lawmakers reinstated a separate moratorium on residential foreclosures in House Bill 2009, which currently runs through Sept. 30. Gov. Kate Brown can extend it by executive order once more through Dec. 30, if she gives advance notice.
Sen. Kayse Jama, D-Portland, was new both to the Legislature — he filled the seat vacated by Shemia Fagan when she was elected secretary of state — and to the Senate Housing and Development Committee. He said it was essential that lawmakers look beyond the years-long housing crisis and the effects of the pandemic.
According to a December 2019 report, Black homeownership rates in Oregon were 32.2%, compared with 65.1% for white households.
“The pandemic has only worsened existing inequities in our society, and there is so much clear data on housing disparities for communities of color,” Jama said. “This work will continue during the interim and into the 2022 session.”