Yesterday (February 28), Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed the nation’s first statewide mandatory rent control law, as reported by The Associated Press.
Across Oregon, one in three renters spend more than half of their income on rent, and three out of every four renters with extremely low incomes pay more than half their income on rent, per a state report. That surpasses the Congressional standard for housing affordability, which is says that only one-third of a household’s income should be spent on rent.
Rental increases make it hard for families to meet that guideline. But under Senate Bill 608, landlords across Oregon are now limited to one annual increase that cannot exceed 7 percent plus inflation. The measure includes an exemption for properties that are less than 15 years old. The law prevents landlords from evicting tenants without reason after one year of occupancy. And depending on the cause for eviction, residents can obtain at least 90-days’ notice plus at least one month of paid rent. The law takes effect immediately.
After signing the bill on Thursday, Brown tweeted, "Every Oregonian should have access to housing choices that allow them and their families to thrive."
The stats in Oregon are reflective of a nationwide housing crisis, per a new report released on February 27 by Right To The City, the Center for Popular Democracy and PolicyLink. The report, “Our Homes, Our Future,” calls for sweeping rent control policies to protect tenants from excessive rent increases around the country.
Nationwide, nearly 10 million renter households pay more than half their income on rent, the report highlights. And the vast majority of them—78 percent—are low income. Among those low-income households, eight out of every 10 are rent-burdened and roughly 50 percent of them are spending more than half their income on housing.
As Colorlines has previously reported, Black and Latinx people are twice as likely to rent their homes as opposed to their White counterparts. Women of color living in poverty are at highest risk for housing insecurity and Black women are evicted at alarmingly higher rates than any other group.
The report breaks it down:
Not only are lower income people overwhelmingly likely to be renters, but America’s discriminatory policies and practices—from the appropriation of land to redlining to predatory lending and more have made achieving or maintaining homeownership especially difficult for Indigenous people, African Americans and other people of color.
The majority of Black, Latinx and Pacific Islander households, and many other Asian subgroups (e.g. Hmong and Korean), are renters, while 71 percent of White households own their homes. Six in 10 Black and Latinx renter households are burdened, compared with five in 10 of their White counterparts. Across race and gender groups, women of color face the largest affordability challenges (61 percent are rent-burdened).
Implementing rent control on a widespread basis is not a panacea, but it is a critical and meaningful step forward. Rent regulations will curb the growing power imbalance between landlords and tenants that is causing harm and immediately halt the pain, stabilize renters and set us on a new path toward greater housing security and housing justice.
Read the full report here.