Despite the ongoing political gridlock slowing progress in the Oregon statehouse, Democratic lawmakers managed to pass two of their priority housing bills in recent days — one to extend the state’s eviction moratorium and the other to expedite the siting of emergency shelters.

On Tuesday morning, lawmakers in the House approved an extension to the state’s moratorium on residential foreclosures until July 1, 2021. The measure only applies to landlords with a limited number of residential properties, no more than five with no more than four units on a single property and does not apply to commercial properties. The measure also allows the governor to extend the moratorium for 90-day increments through the end of the year.

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“I assure you Oregonians need this sort of protection,” Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, a sponsor of the bill, said on the House floor. “Without it, I fear we face even more economic distress … even more Oregonians will become homeless if this bill does not pass.”

House Bill 2009 passed on a 38-to-21 vote and now heads to the Senate.

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Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and last season’s wildfires, the housing crisis in Oregon was dire. This session, lawmakers have proposed a raft of bills aimed at addressing the deepening crisis this session.

“Our ongoing recession has been the most unequal in modern American history,” said Rep. Julie Fahey, D-Eugene, who chairs the House Committee on Housing. “By advancing this residential foreclosure moratorium, we’re avoiding the mistakes of the Great Recession that caused generational harm for families and we’re keeping Oregonians in their homes during the worst public health crisis of our lifetime.”

Several Republican lawmakers voiced concerns that the law was unconstitutional and was retroactively changing contracts.

“If we take this action and we don’t have security in our contracts, security in our insurance, security in the future because the Legislature can swoop in any time and change the rules of the game then there won’t even be money lent to people buy houses,” Kim Wallen, R-Medford, said on the House floor.

The Legislature had previously passed a moratorium on commercial and residential foreclosures that expired on Dec. 31, 2020.

Lawmakers also passed a measure aimed at addressing the inadequate number of shelter beds in the state. It’s an issue that has plagued Oregon for several years.

House Bill 2006 would allow for local governments to waive design, planning and zoning regulations to approve the siting of emergency shelters. Shelters would still need to comply with certain building codes and meet certain public health and safety requirements. The emergency siting authority would expire July 1, 2022, although shelters could remain open after that date. The measure also now heads to the Senate.

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