Jessica Vega Pederson

Candidate for Multnomah County Chair

Letter Grade: B

Overall Score: 59/72

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

I believe that the root cause of our housing affordability and homelessness crisis is a failure to build enough housing units, and a true resolution to the housing crisis will only come when we have a sustainable, ample supply of affordable housing across the Metro region. That’s why I was supportive of the 2018 Portland Affordable Housing Bond and 2020 Metro Affordable Housing Bond, and as a Multnomah County Commissioner I’ve advocated for us to think strategically about how we purchase, use and retain property with an eye toward developing those properties into affordable housing in the long term.  I believe we have the correct strategy to address this crisis, focusing on increasing housing supply, preventing homelessness, expanding shelter capacity and options, and investing in permanent supportive housing.

We need to better utilize rental vouchers, emergency rental assistance and the Regional Long-Term Rent Assistance program to better prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place. We need to get people living on our streets into safer shelter settings where they can get the assistance they need to transition into stable housing. That requires us to diversify the types of shelter we provide, to include everything from traditional shelters to micro-villages, pod shelters, and safe RV Parking sites, and those investments need to be paired with stronger, peer-led outreach, enhanced hygiene resources and trash pick-up services to address the situation on our streets. Finally, this strategy will not work if we do not remain focused on the north star of the Supportive Housing Services measure: expanding our permanent supportive housing system to be able to serve every person who needs addiction, mental health, or other services in order to remain housed. 

As Chair, I will be a strong advocate of every component of this strategy, and I will push to accelerate the deployment of resources provided by the Supportive Housing Services measure. (2.3/5)

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.

I believe there are three steps we can take to advance tenants rights. First, we should reexamine the rent control and inclusionary zoning measures I supported as a legislator and a commissioner, to see if they are protecting renters as designed. If they are not, they should be strengthened. Second, we should fund legal assistance for tenants to level the playing field when it comes to landlord-tenant disputes.  Third, we must build more affordable housing, which will lower rental costs, give renters more options, and provide more competition in the rental market. The undersupply of housing is a major issue, warping our economy and placing a tremendous stress on the finances of renters. We need more affordable housing, which means more government support for the construction or preservation of affordable housing, donating land, increasing zoning, lowering costs on development, and more. (4.7/5)

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

I own my east Portland home. I was last a renter in 2005, before we bought the house we still live in, and I had been a renter for seven years in Portland. (0/2)

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

I am personally not a landlord, but my husband and his business partner own two rental homes. One of those is the house next door to ours that is rented to my mom and my aunt. Their proximity allows us to more easily care for them and for them to be closer to us and my children. (0/2)

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?

I have not been briefed on this particular policy yet, but I am absolutely in support of prohibitions on harassment by landlords in principle. As Chair I would be eager to learn more about this policy, understand how it could be applied in Multnomah County, and advocate for statewide legislation to ensure these protections apply to every renter in Oregon. (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?

Multnomah County does not have direct authority over either of these issues, but I would advocate with my colleagues publicly and privately for both of these measures to be taken at the City and in the state legislature. My priority as Chair will be tackling our affordable housing and homelessness crisis head-on by working with the private sector and jurisdictional partners to accelerate the development of new housing, expanding our efforts to keep people housed through the use of rental vouchers and emergency rental assistance, getting more people into safe settings by expanding shelter bed capacity while diversifying shelter model options, and fully and quickly implementing the supportive housing services measure to expand permanent supportive housing. (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?

Yes, I am supportive of the Right to Counsel concept, and believe it could be implemented at Multnomah County, with the right funding mechanism. (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?

Absolutely, yes. The cornerstone of my career as an elected official is my record of bringing stakeholders from across ideological spectrums together to craft meaningful policy change. I firmly believe that good policymaking necessitates meaningful stakeholder engagement, which is why I led the County’s effort to pass the 2018 Environmental Justice resolution, which codified that value as the policy of Multnomah County. When addressing tenant law or housing justice issues, I would invite stakeholders including PTU and renters, individuals experiencing homelessness and advocates with lived experience, landlords and property owners, and any other stakeholders who would be impacted by the decisions we are making. (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?

Renters need a seat at the table from the beginning of any policy-making process that’s going to affect their lives. As Chair, I will ensure that representation is present in those discussions, and will proactively reach out to organizations like PTU to solicit their ideas and feedback.  I will also work in partnership with our community based organizations to reach and engage our BIPOC communities. That’s the way I’ve led as a state legislator and as a county commissioner - bringing together stakeholders from every perspective to craft impactful progressive policies like paid sick leave, raising the minimum wage, and Preschool for All (5/5)

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?

No (0/2)

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?

I strongly believe that every stakeholder should be involved in policy discussions that will impact them, but we must also recognize that there are times when parties will not participate in good-faith. In those circumstances I will work with all of our other partners to understand the key barriers necessary to overcome the obstacles caused by intransigence or bad-faith negotiations and craft meaningful solutions to issues relating to our housing crisis. (4/5)

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

I am very mindful of the pressure infrastructure improvements put on displacement. So I am very supportive of the preservation or expansion of affordable housing, particularly in areas we know will otherwise gentrify. We’ve seen this happen in areas of north Portland, Lents, and Cully, and we will see it elsewhere throughout our region so long as we aren’t expanding the housing supply in every neighborhood in Multnomah County. I have talked to TriMet and the city about the need to make investments in areas where it may expand light rail. I’ve talked to the city about the need to do so along 82nd as it will see improvements in the coming years. I’ve advocated building more housing around lower Albina. And I wrote in support of the city’s Central City plan to increase density and affordable housing in the downtown core, a plan that was adopted by City Council. I am also always open to looking at new policies or investments that will need to be made to protect renters, understanding that laws need to be updated with changing times, practices and legal opinions. No measure is static and this area of the law is constantly evolving.  I look forward to partnering with PTU in the future to have conversations about new policies, investments, and improvements to our current system. (3.3/5)

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  • Leeor Schweitzer