Chris Smith

Candidate for Metro Council, District 5

Letter Grade: C

Overall Score: 57/75

1.) Would you be willing to call for a moratorium on evictions, a rent freeze, a contingency fund for rental assistance and legal aid, moratorium on utility shutoffs, and an end to sweeps during the coronavirus emergency?

Yes (2/2)

2.) Are there any additional emergency responses that you would call for other than those listed above?

These are quite obviously uncertain times, and we need to be preparing for a wide variety of outcomes, including the horrific possibility that our community will need to shelter in place for many months on end (and the economic implications of what that represents, particularly to rent-burdened communities). I’m interested in exploring which of Metro’s other venues and resources - the convention center, the convention center hotel, the expo center (with sensitivity toward its past role in the Japanese internment), others - could play to help provide temporary quarantined housing opportunities. As a Metro Councilor, I will be diligent in advocating for making sure any stimulus investments or infrastructure packages are designed to support an economic recovery that centers those that have lost the most wages and resources. I really appreciated the Portland Tenants United proposal to “Create a Tenant Covid-19 Commission to Ensure Tenants Across Portland’s Diverse Community a Voice and Part in Oversight regarding Emergency Housing Provisions,” and I’d be interested in working with PTU to figure out what a similar oversight body could look like for the region. (4/5)

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

Federal disinvestment in housing beginning in the 1980s and continuing to this day (e.g., recent HUD cuts). This has overwhelmed the ability of local governments to fill the gap. Income inequality has also reduced the ‘housing buying power’ of the lower income segments of our society. The financialization of the housing sector (e.g., mortgage-backed securities) and high construction costs also contribute to escalations in housing prices. Specific to Portland, high housing prices in other west coast cities have also caused in-migration of folks able and willing to bid up housing. (3.4/5)

4.) Do you rent or own your residence?

Own under mortgage (0/2)

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

No (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?

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?

Honestly, I’m primarily running for Metro Council because I believe Metro is uniquely positioned to guide the region to solutions to the climate emergency by making thoughtful decisions to guide the region’s land use and transportation decisions, and I have been diligently working on tackling fossil fuel infrastructure throughout my public service career as a community activist. With that said, it’s obvious to me that increased housing stability is a crucial ingredient of any slate of climate investments - both politically and logistically. It’s Portland’s low-income renters who suffer the most on the front lines from our investments in fossil fuel infrastructure (who lives near freeways, oil trains, busy streets?) and it’s these same low-income renters who end up emitting the most carbon when they are displaced far from their jobs and forced to drive across the region because of our abysmally inadequate transit service. Building up the economic and political power of renters is not only a moral imperative; helping working class families achieve greater housing stability also happens to help more in our region make the choices necessary for our region to collectively live lower-carbon lives. I will use my bully pulpit at Metro, for whatever it’s worth in this context, to sign on and support tenants’ legislation in Salem. (3.4/5)

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

Yes (2/2)

10.) Would you support an effort like the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, that would allow tenants, delegated non-profits, or the City the first opportunity to buy a house or housing complex when the owner puts it up for sale?

Yes (2/2)

11.) If elected, would you support a requirement for tenant legal representation during eviction proceedings, including a mechanism to provide it?  Would you support allowing non-attorney advocates for tenants?

Yes (2/2)

12.) If elected, would you ask Portland Tenants United to participate in any community engagement process that involves tenant law or housing justice issues?

Yes (2/2)

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

I think the collaboration between Metro and the HereTogether coalition has been a good example, with frontline communities centered in the discussion. Metro has a race-first equity plan and I’ll make sure those policies are applied to community involvement. (3.2/5)

14.) 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)

15.) During the hearings for the Fair Access in Renting (FAIR) ordinances, MultiFamily Northwest led an information campaign based upon misleading, inaccurate, and racist claims. How would you hold landlord groups accountable when they spread dangerous misinformation?

Elected officials have a duty to educate the community on the facts behind issues. If groups have misleading or inflammatory messaging I’ll use my voice as a counter. In my career on the Portland Planning Sustainability Commission, I’ve positioned myself as a resource to explain to the community what the substantive issues behind policy proposals are. I pledge to, as an elected official, use my platform to call out demonstrably untrue claims made by lobbyists in an effort to discredit community organizations sticking up for tenants’ rights. (3.6/5)

16.) Landlords and lobbyists have often walked away from political processes if they didn’t get everything they want. How will you respond if landlords and lobbyists refuse to engage in good faith toward a tenant friendly solution to some housing crisis problem?

Policy processes should not stop because a particular interest walks away. (4.4/5)

17.) Do you support maintaining and strengthening Portland's status as a Sanctuary City?  How will you work to protect tenants from discrimination or retaliation based on their immigration status? 

Yes. This is most likely to come up as Metro distributes revenue from the affordable housing bond and the houseless services tax. I’ll make sure the funding policies do not discriminate on immigration status.
The most recent example I can give of my deliberate attention to incorporating immigrant concerns into public policymaking is my work with the No More Freeways campaign. Our organization wrote a letter asking the Oregon Department of Transportation to look into data privacy concerns for any potential implementation of congestion pricing tolling, because we’ve seen CalTrans’ data shared with ICE and we must prevent that from happening. (3.8/5)

18.) Environmental upgrades to old buildings is a necessary tool in the fight for environmental justice but could lead to displacement without strong tenant protections. Would you support strengthening the anti-displacement and tenant protection intention expressed in the Portland Clean Energy Fund ordinance by adding more specific enforcement measures to the ordinance and to similar future policies? 

Yes (2/2)

19.) What other tenant protections would you advocate? What would be your plan to enact changes?

My position at Metro doesn’t afford me much opportunity to proactively lead on many tenancy-related issues; I will look to PTU, Community Alliance of Tenants, and other community organizations leading the charge for changes in Portland City Hall and the Oregon Legislature and lend my voice and bully pulpit (and that of Metro) to the extent I’m capable. However, I’m passionate about many systemic changes that will provide significant economic and social benefit to the communities that PTU represents, including a robust expansion of transit services (particularly prioritizing investments in East Portland), ensuring Metro doubles down on its policies of workforce and hiring diversity, and encouraging the rapid increase in supply of both market-rate and affordable housing units in walkable neighborhoods near transit. (3/5)

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

I want to take a moment to explain my position on campaign contributions. I’m the only candidate in this race self-limiting contributions to $500 because voters have twice adopted ballot measures that call for that even though courts have found them unenforceable. So there are no big money interests that are going to influence my policies. But there are climate-friendly developers that I would likely accept contributions from. I’m certainly not fund-raising among landlord interests. (0.4/5)