Governor calls special session on eviction protections for Oregon tenants

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is calling legislators into special session later this month. (The Enterprise/FILE)

Gov. Kate Brown will call the Legislature into a special session on eviction protections on Dec. 13, nearly two weeks after the deadline for Oregon tenants affected by the Covid pandemic to seek aid paying rent.

Brown’s announcement includes a request for $190 million in additional state funding. The first $90 million would provide additional rental assistance to help renters and landlords through the winter, while the remaining $100 million would ease a transition from a state-run pandemic rental assistance program to long-term eviction prevention programs run at the local level. 

Tenant advocates and some legislators have pushed for additional action from the governor or Legislature for months, as tens of thousands of renters have fallen behind on rent. Oregon Housing and Community Services has nearly run through the $289 million it received from the federal government and will stop accepting applications for rent assistance at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 1.

The state has requested more money from the U.S. Treasury, but Brown said in a statement it has become increasingly clear that the state can’t wait on the federal government.

“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,” she said. “And, we must begin laying the groundwork now for the transition to local eviction prevention services after federal pandemic emergency programs draw to an end.”

Anyone who applies for rent assistance by Dec. 1 will be protected from eviction for 60 days, under a law passed this summer. Roughly 10,500 Oregonians who applied already saw their safe harbor protections expire before their landlords received back rent, according to tenant advocates.

Stable Homes for Oregon Families, a coalition of advocacy groups, local governments and faith-based organizations, welcomed Brown’s call for a special session.

“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,” the group said.

Brown expects the Legislature to extend safe harbor protections to everyone who has applied for rental assistance, she said in her announcement. 

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