In early January, I argued that Oregon’s enactment of a statewide rent control law would be just the beginning (Rent control: another bad idea out of Salem). Pressure would build quickly to reduce the law’s annual rent increase limit of 7 percent plus inflation, currently totaling about 10 percent, I said.
No surprise, the push for tougher rules has already begun.
It began with a Feb. 1, 2019 editorial in Street Roots, a weekly street newspaper published in Portland that’s sold by members of the local homeless community.
“The profit motive has been allowed to triumph over the fact that housing is a fundamental human need to survive,” the editorial said. “For too many decades, the marketplace has been allowed to skew sharply toward money over humanity, and Oregon is just too attractive of a market to pass up. It’s time for the pendulum to swing the other way.”
The editorial highlighted the need for the prohibition on rent control action by local governments to be lifted and noted that rent increase limits elsewhere are much lower.
“Rent stabilization elsewhere in the country comes in at much lower percentage,” the editorial said. “Take Berkeley, where a different calculation regulates rent increases to no more than 3 or so percent. In New York, it’s approximately 1.5 percent.”
Mary King, a professor of economics emerita at Portland State University, followed up with a March 1, 2019 Street Roots commentary also arguing that the rent increase limit is too high.
Oregon’s new rent control law was “…designed to stop only extreme rent gouging and limit no-cause evictions” and prohibits cities from passing their own, stronger rent stabilization policies, King said.
Ten percent is just too high a limit, particularly when compared with some tighter limits set elsewhere, King wrote. “Capping annual increases at 10 percent would have only slightly limited the unaffordable growth in rents in Portland over the past five years,” she added.
Oregon’s rent control law represented only “…progress against the worst excesses,” King said. “However, if the state would allow it, Portland could pass a much stronger, more effective rent stabilization policy without harming the supply of housing. Our best next step would be to pass a second bill to lift pre-emption on cities hoping to set their own course – and get to work in Portland.”
The Legislature’s rent control bill was essential because it would establish a “better baseline,” the Street Roots editorial said, “but we expect them to keep fighting. We will too.”
Hang on landlords and tenants. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.