James "Jas" Davis

Candidate for Portland Commissioner, Position 2

Letter Grade: D+

Overall Score: 51/75

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?

I would also call for a mortgage moratorium and relief to protect homeowners from losing their homes and joining the ranks of the dispossessed. If our goal is to move all Portlanders into housing and homeownership (if they choose), then we must protect the financial well-being of both tenants and homeowners. I believe mortgage relief would also help tenants by helping small-scale landlords who would otherwise fall behind in their mortgages and feel the need to raise rents. (3/5)

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

Speculation drives up housing costs and rents. We can pass measures to disincentive this and effectively remove housing from the speculative market. This is such an important question that I am surprised you did not give adequate space to answer it. (2.8/5)

4.) Do you rent or own your residence?

Rent (2/2)

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

Yes, I rent out rooms to therapists in my wellness center, although I have cuts rents by half or more during this crisis. (0/2)

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?

I would lend my support, although I would favor more systemic approaches to actually resolving houselessness and housing affordability issues. (1.6/5)

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 would consult and engage tenant advocacy groups in that effort. (2.4/5)

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?

I would seek to clarify and dispute misinformation in our policy processes. (2.2/5)

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?

We can pass resolutions without their support. (3.4/5)

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, I support sanctuary status and would support making such retaliation illegal. (3.4/5)

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?

I would look to tenant advocacy groups for input on appropriate tenant protections. My general focus woud continue to be on big-picture, sustained solutions that create the Portland that all of us want to be living in, and that includes changes the create an environment where housing is more broadly available and affordable both for tenants and for those aspiring to homeownership. (2/5)

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

We need to implement innovative housing solutions to meet the housing needs of ALL Porlanders. I want to….

1) Expand the range of available housing. More housing translates into lower cost housing. For the houseless, we should take a Housing First approach to help people find stability in fixed housing such as housing pods or refurbished dorm housing (such as at the former Concordia campus). Needed services could be available in housing pods throughout the city. For all of, a fuller range of housing would include pod housing, tiny homes, SROs, ADUs, more mid-sized plexes, multi-family and multi-generational housing, as well as collaborative and communal housing, ecovillages and coops. Personally, I lived in an ecovillage community coop for several years until recently, and spent a fair bit of time there figuring out how the community could purchase the homes we lived in collectively through our cooperative.

2) Charter a public bank to implement net-benefit financing to provide better lending and refinance options for homeowners and homebuyers. A public bank would also provide better lending options to small businesses and co-ops, and fund large municipal projects, saving the city millions of dollars in interest and cutting project costs substantially. And rather than lining the pockets of stockholders and Wall Street, profit from the reduced interest would be reinvested into the community in programs that meet the community mission, like subsidized and guaranteed loans for right-of-return and stay-in-place programs to help people acquire their first home or return to ancestral neighborhoods where their families were dispossessed through red-lining and other racist development and zoning policies and practices.

3) Take a big-picture, restorative, whole-systems approach to housing affordability by taking steps to reduce the incentive to speculate in housing. Housing speculation has resulted in a rapid rise in housing costs and rents. To remove housing from the speculative market, we could move to a progressive property tax based on density. Higher density homes and buildings would qualify for a lower tax bracket while lower density, often higher end, homes would fall into higher property tax brackets. This would incentivize making more units (rooms, studios, etc) available for long-term lease

Larger residential properties with fewer people would be taxed at a higher rate than larger properties with more people, while smaller residences with few people would also be taxed at a higher rate than smaller homes with more people, though not as high as a large home with the same number of people. A simple formula to determine a residential building’s tax bracket would be to divide the building’s square footage by the number long-term occupants. Notice that short-term occupants do not count toward reducing the residential property’s tax bracket. This would incentivize, and effectively subsidize, house-sharing and subletting to long-term occupants. It would also motivate property owners who have a lot of empty units sitting on the market for months or years to lower their rents to attract tenants, thereby increasing housing supply and having a general rent-reducing impact more broadly.

Those who prefer to AirBnB their properties are still welcome to do so and likely would if their profits more than made up for the increase in property taxes. This is a long-term solution to housing affordability and would eventually bring more homes onto the market and more reasonable prices that current tenants who want to become homeowners could buy using conventional loans or loans from the public bank.

This is a multi-pronged, systemic approach to resolving houselessness and housing affordability. It is important to acknowledge that the current market dynamics encourages the housing and rental environment in which we find ourselves. To truly alter that situation we must alter the market forces that created it. This will not happen overnight. In the meantime, I support addressing immediate concerns of tenants through the kinds of measures advocated by tenant advocates. That said, those measures often address symptoms of a systemic problem that should also be tackled at its roots. At the same time, I do not believe in punishing the thousands of homeowners and investors who have effectively created financial stability by “playing by the rules.” A shift to a progressive property tax should take place over time to give people time to evaluate their financial strategies and shift strategies.

Oregonians tend to favor progressive taxes. As someone who has been both a tenant working for affordable housing, and as a landlord who has rented rooms both through AirBnB and to long-term tenants, I can see many sides of the matter. In the end, we have to ask ourselves what kind of world we want to live in? Do I want to live in a world where I can get ahead, but a lot of people are struggling or suffering greatly, or would I rather live in a world where everybody is doing ok, and I am perhaps doing only moderately better than other people in my community? Personally, I choose the latter. (2.6/5)