Casey Kulla

Candidate for Oregon Commissioner of Labor and Industries

Letter Grade: B

Overall Score: 64/72

1.) In your view, what are the main causes of the current housing crisis?

Not enough safe housing that people can afford. I serve as Yamhill County Commissioner, and I see this every day in our cities and our rural communities, and I see substandard and dangerous housing offered as the only options for many residents. With climate change here, I also see the risks to tenants from severe heat and ice storms, too. (3/5)

2.) What are your top priorities for advancing tenants rights? Please list one to three policies or initiatives you are or will be proactively championing, and provide an explanation of a. your work around this/these policies, and b. why it is/they are important.

(1) The Labor Commissioner is responsible for upholding your existing rights and any new rights established by the Legislature. This is the main landing page for tenant rights in Oregon: My top priority is communicating to tenants their rights to fair housing, communicating to property owners/managers their responsibilities, and then effectively investigating all complaints that you bring to me in a timely manner that achieves justice for you, with sufficient penalties for owners/managers as to provide deterrence. Education, enforcement, deterrence. If you don't know your rights and if you don't trust that we'll uphold them, then it is almost as if your rights didn't exist. (2) Universal representation for tenants in the eviction process is a keen need, as well. This needs to come as part of overhauling legal representation in general, for public defenders, immigration legal services and tenant rights: the fact is that legal representation is the path to justice (the vast majority of cases with representation win, compared to people without). (4.7/5)

3.) Do you rent or own your residence? If you own your home, when were you a renter most recently?

We own our home, having built it ourselves in 2007. For the rest of our adult lives (pre-2007), my wife and I rented. (0/2)

4.) Are you currently a landlord? If so, in what capacity?

We are not. (2/2)

5.) PTU had been advocating for the Tenant Protection Ordinance along with a coalition of over 25 organizations. The TPO would support tenants experiencing harassment from their landlord. If elected, will you prioritize and support passing the Tenant Protection Ordinance?

The Tenant Protection Ordinance needs to be codified statewide as statute, so that the Bureau of Labor and Industries can protect tenants all across Oregon. I will work with you and legislators on the introduction, passage, and implementation. (2/2)

6.) Portland’s relocation ordinance currently kicks in at a rent increase at 10% or above. Would you favor lowering the amount that triggers relocation payments if a rent increase forces tenants to move?

Yes (2/2)

7.) If elected, would you work to overturn the state of Oregon’s preemption preventing local rent control measures, and work towards local rent control with a lower annual increase cap?

Yes (2/2)

8.) If you answered yes to #6 and #7, how would you champion or advocate for the changes needed? What are your priorities and timeline?

Most people in Oregon agree that housing, the costs of it, and homelessness are our most pressing issues. Connecting community rent control measures and eviction/relocation costs to this issue is vital. We must work together to introduce legislation in 2023 session that removes the preemption; it is URGENT. And the political will exists. (3.7/5)

9.) If elected, would you support the right of tenants to collectively bargain their leases and rent?

Yes (2/2)

10.) If elected, would you support a Right to Counsel (tenants in eviction courts are guaranteed legal counsel) and a funding mechanism to provide it?

See above, question #1, sub-2. Yes, and it needs to be part of rethinking civil and criminal legal representation in general, because effective assistance of counsel is a matter of life and death for many people. (2/2)

11.) If elected, would you ask Portland Tenants United to participate in any community engagement process that involves tenant law or housing justice issues? What other groups would you invite to the table?

PDXTU, OR CAT, housing authorities, cities, and community-based organizations that represent Oregonians of color (Verde, Mano e Mano, as examples) need to be at the rule-making table, and they need to be compensated for their time if they are not paid staff or lobbyists. Property management company associations (Multi Family NW) also need to be included, but we don't not need to practice consensus-based rule-making (it can be non-unanimous). (2/2)

12.) How would you ensure that policies and processes which affect tenants meaningfully include impacted renters, and reflect the diversity of the tenants affected?

Labor Commissioner needs to listen, invite participation, and give *access* to tenants. Access to elected officials for lobbying, informal conversations, and pitches is traditionally held by lobbyists and powerful organizations. Tenants and other communities not in power need to have this same level of access. (3.3/5)

13.) Would you refuse or return campaign contributions from Multifamily NW's Equitable Housing PAC, The Good Landlord PAC, More Housing Now! PAC, or similar real estate industry PACs?

Yes (2/2)

14.) Landlords and lobbyists have often walked away from policy conversations when they feel that the status quo is threatened . How will you respond if landlords and lobbyists refuse to engage in good faith toward a tenant-friendly solution to a housing crisis problem?

As I mentioned in #11, rule-making that is not consensus-based/that is non-unanimous but includes community organizations and tenants rights groups as well as property owners/managers is one of the best ways to achieve good policy even in the face of walk-outs. This is a basic part of the process that can be leveraged (I sat on the greenhouse gas reduction program rules-advisory committee that did this, and it works). But, some tenant-friendly policies already exist in the fair housing standards of both BOLI and HUD; we just need people to know their rights and know where to go for help (and then we need to apply penalties for these rights violations). (5/5)

15.) Are there other ways, besides those you have already mentioned, that you will champion housing affordability, expand tenant rights, and fight displacement?

As Yamhill County Commissioner, I work on housing costs and availability every day, with builders, investors, public agencies, and folks seeking houses. Building code updates, expanded tax credits for lower-rent housing, clear enunciations of rights, improved wages and work opportunities, and expanded public transit all have a part to play in making housing affordable and stable for Oregonians, and I work on these issues every single day. I look forward to working with you on these issues statewide and in Portland, in the role of Labor Commissioner! (4.3/5)

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  • Leeor Schweitzer