Multnomah County extended its eviction moratorium on Thursday, ensuring thousands of renters who have fallen behind on rent can stay in their homes through the winter.
By a unanimous vote on Thursday morning, the board of county commissioners extended the moratorium through July 2, 2021. Tenants have a six-month grace period to pay back missed rent.
“While the great news about vaccines represents light at the end of the tunnel, we are in no way out of the woods,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. “Extending the state of emergency today is an acknowledgment of the reality that the health safety and well being of our entire community and especially the most vulnerable continue to be threatened by this virus.”
The vote comes as Oregon lawmakers are considering extending the statewide moratorium on evictions past the new year. Legislators will meet on Monday for a special session to take up the question. Kafoury said the county didn’t want to wait.
“We couldn’t afford to take any chances,” she said. “Multnomah County renters can rest assured that, at the very least, no matter what the state does or doesn’t do, they will be protected in the New Year.”
Thursday’s vote marks the fourth time Multnomah County has extended the moratorium since last March, stalling a wave of evictions and homelessness that are expected to otherwise take place as county residents lose their incomes amid the pandemic.
The now nine-month bar on evictions of tenants who can’t pay rent has also left many worried for the landlords whose livelihood depends on these payments.
Commissioner Sharon Meieran urged state legislators to use the special session to address both the soon-to-expire protections for renters and find a path forward for compensating landlords.
“I sincerely hope that the legislature will act next Monday to provide meaningful rent assistance to landlords and tenants alike,” said Meieran. “Our action to extend the eviction moratorium is a necessary one, but it does not come without hardship for landlords who may struggle to pay mortgages, bills, and sustain their own livelihoods.”
“This can’t be an either/or,” she said.
In their last board meeting of the year, the county commissioners are also expected to take several other steps to address housing and homelessness in the region.
The commissioners are expected to vote to funnel an additional $2.5 million in CARES Act money from the federal coronavirus relief package toward the city-county Joint Office of Homeless Services. According to the county, that money will go toward increasing shelter capacity for severe weather, providing winter supplies such as warm clothes and sleeping bags to people living on the street, along with pallet shelters, which are box-like structures that are easily set up and reused.
The board is also expected to approve a plan for how the county should spend the dollars that come in through Metro’s new tax, approved by voters in May and expected to see nearly $250 million a year generated for homeless services in the region. Multnomah County is expected to receive $100 million. The plan earmarks three-quarters of this money for people experiencing chronic homelessness. The most recent point in time count showed 1,770 people were chronically homeless in the county, a nearly 40% jump from 2017.