We are facing a unique crisis as the novel COVID-19 spread and intense social distancing measures are put into place to slow the spread of the virus. The measures may reduce damage from the virus, but they will also have devastating impacts on many people who will lose income or their jobs, especially as other health, medical and childcare costs increase in response to corona related measures. We must minimize the harm from these measures. Furthermore, at this time when people are asked to stay at home, we must make sure that everyone has access, and does not lose access, to habitable housing.
Portland Tenants United calls on Portland City Council to act swiftly and robustly to bring peace of mind and material relief to those who need and deserve it most by enacting this State of Emergency Housing Security Package.
For any measures that City Council cannot enact itself, Portland Tenants United calls for a resolution from City Council, urging county, state, and national authorities to act, as well as calls for landlords and companies to act in solidarity.
1. Immediate Eviction Moratorium and Rent Relief.
- No Forced Entry Detainers (evictions) filed, processed or judgments enforced
- If someone must be removed because of an immediate safety need, it must include a plan to transition that person to other housing.
- No foreclosures filed. More immediately, no foreclosures enforced.
- Enact rent control, and block all rent increases.
- Use city contingency funds to provide rent and mortgage assistance. In the case of rent assistance, this should be provided to landlords who apply, and only for their documented operating expenses (Mortgage, maintenance, etc.) Renters should not be required to prove their need for rental assistance.
- No utility shut off or late fees for late payment on utilities. All disconnected utilities restored. Utilities include: water, gas, electricity, telephone/cell, internet, and cable. During this time of relative social isolation it is imperative that people can stay updated and connected.
2. April Amnesty
All housing related payments due in or for April must be waived without penalty or qualification. Where this is not possible by local mandate or because of financial hardship, landlords and homeowners may apply for assistance created in part I(D).
April Amnesty includes:
- Rent payments
- Mortgage payments
- Utility payments
- Any fines and fees owed to the City or County Courts
3. Stop the Sweeps
- No displacement without replacement. Any camping that needs to be cleared for immediate safety reasons must be accompanied with immediate placement into housing and with appropriate care for people and their belongings.
- Use Master Leasing to make use of vacant hotel and airbnb spaces for emergency shelter.
4. PTU’s Tenant Protection Ordinance
Borrowing from the experience of other cities, as tenant protections are enacted, even in this time of emergency, some landlords will turn to other means to remove tenants. Tenants need comprehensive protection against harassment to prevent this behavior.
- Establish a list of behaviors considered harassment by a landlord as grounds for legal action. These should include bad faith actions where a landlord neglects upkeep, invades privacy, bullies, provides misinformation, discriminates, or targets rule enforcement on a single tenant. Portland Tenants United has a full list already developed.
- Use emergency resources to provide tenant advocates and legal representation for tenants.
5. Create a Tenant Covid-19 Commission to Ensure Tenants Across Portland’s Diverse Community a Voice and Part in Oversight regarding Emergency Housing Provisions.
- This commission should consist entirely of renters except where non-renter subject matter experts are needed.
- Members should be sure to include residents of shelters at any time in the past six months or currently unhoused and anyone eligible for public housing assistance.
Tenants must be involved in the execution of local emergency policies and have our insight recognized as the temperature gauge for the health of all of Portland.
6. Pass a Resolution asking other jurisdictions and the private sector to do their part.
The steps above are crucial to ensuring continued housing for all people in Portland as we continue through this public health crisis. Any elements that Portland City Council cannot enact should be directed at the county, state, national, or private sector entity that can enact it to protect health, safety, and housing for all.
Portland City Council should further call upon the State of Oregon to lift the rent control preemption and enact all of these protections statewide.
Please sign the petition, and join or donate to PTU. We are an all volunteer tenant union, but the day to day expenses of keeping the lights on and speaking truth to power is solely supported through dues and individual donations.
Every membership builds our power. www.pdxtu.org/join