Stop Harassment Prevent Houselessness
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Open Letter to Commissioner Carmen Rubio demanding the Tenant Protection Ordinance
Dear Commissioner Rubio,
Portland Tenants United stands in solidarity with our unhoused neighbors all over Portland. We share our community’s distress about the recently approved policy to impose criminal penalties on unsheltered Portlanders who do not want to move into large camps. We have concerns about both the real effects of the policy itself, and how the set of resolutions don’t address many of the root causes of homelessness. Meanwhile, the crisis on our streets only gets worse by the day as more Portlanders lose their homes due to landlord harassment, evictions and massive rent increases.
We can all agree that preventing homelessness by helping people stay in their homes is an essential part of any plan that aims to address this crisis. It’s a smart investment. That is why we are calling on you, Commissioner Rubio, as the new Commissioner of the Portland Housing Bureau, and the rest of City Council, to move forward with the Tenant Protection Ordinance.
This anti-harassment policy is modeled on similar ordinances in other cities, and was carefully considered by the Rental Services Commission over the course of the spring and early summer of 2022. This focus was in response to the topic of harassment overwhelmingly dominating public testimony in 2021, accounting for roughly a third of all public comment.
Over the past year and a half the commission has heard from countless Portlanders who have experienced unimaginable stress, precarity and upheaval due to landlord harassment, which in many cases resulted in them losing their home. These “extra-legal” or “self-help” evictions are all too common, and because they don’t pass through the court system it is impossible to calculate their frequency and impact.
Public comments and subsequent discussion among the Commission resulted in a formal recommendation in June, that Council “evaluate the potential adoption of protections against harassment of tenants by landlords.” Portland Tenants United facilitated introductions between your staff and city staff in Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Berkeley - all of whom work closely with similar ordinances in their own jurisdictions and were excited to serve as consultants on developing this policy - but we have not heard back since July.
Additionally, Portland renters need a Rental Services Office that is empowered to offer real support to both tenants and landlords, and has full funding to do so. That includes the capacity to investigate and offer resolution for harassment and other disputes, as well as collect data on lease terminations, rent increases, and other aspects of tenancy that will enable policy makers to fully understand the landscape of Portland’s rental sector.
Both of these are crucial pieces of homelessness prevention and MUST be included in your plans to address housing instability and homelessness.
We look forward to discussing this with your office in earnest, and for an expedited path forward.
Portland Tenants United