Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a measure into law Wednesday that gives tenants facing financial struggles during the coronavirus pandemic more time to pay their past-due rent.
People now have until Feb. 28, 2022, to pay back rent, instead of facing a July deadline.
“Everyone deserves a warm, safe, dry place to call home — and during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been particularly critical that Oregonians be able to stay in their homes,” Brown said.
Senate Bill 282 also protects renters from the long-term effects of not making payments on time by barring reporting to consumer credit agencies and removing back rents from consideration when submitting future rental applications. The law also bars landlords from denying applicants based on pandemic-era evictions and allows such evictions to be kept secret.
The new law also relaxes occupancy limits, with lawmakers saying some residents have needed to stay with friends and family because of financial or health issues during the pandemic. However, it does not extend Oregon's eviction moratorium past June 30 or forgive back rent.
The pandemic has exacerbated the state’s housing crisis.
In March, more than 17% of Oregon renters — or nearly 158,000 — said they were not caught up on their rent payments, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent Household Pulse Survey.
Of Oregon renters who answered the survey, 11% said they had no confidence they would be able to pay the next month's rent.
“Senate Bill 282 gives the Oregonians hardest hit by economic impacts during the pandemic more time to recover and, thanks to a historic amount of rent assistance in Oregon, we have the resources to help those families get back on stable financial footing," Brown said.
Lawmakers also passed legislation Wednesday to reinstate a moratorium on foreclosures. The measure, which now heads to the governor, would allow homeowners to pause or reduce their mortgage payments at least through June 30. The previous state moratorium expired at the end of 2020, but many homeowners continued to struggle to catch up on mortgage payments.
The bill could be extended until the end of the year if Brown lengthens her emergency declaration over COVID-19.
State lawmakers have pushed the housing crisis to the forefront during the legislative session.
In March, lawmakers presented 17 housing-focused bills, which included $535 million for increasing affordable housing, addressing homelessness and supporting homeownership.
Cline is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.