Multnomah County voters appeared to be resoundingly rejecting a ballot measure in Tuesday’s special election that would create a 0.75% capital gains tax to fund lawyers for tenants facing eviction.
Measure 26-238 was trailing in unofficial early returns as of Wednesday morning, with about 82% of voters opposing it.
The measure was intended to impact the region’s wealthiest by taxing capital gains, which is any profit made from the sale of a property, a business, stocks, bonds, and even works of art. Yet the measure wasn’t written to exempt low-income residents from paying the tax, an issue that worried some voters. Most local elected officials opposed the measure on this basis. The proposal also attracted well-funded opposition from the real estate industry, which would have been taxed under this measure.
Renters facing eviction are not granted free legal representation in court. In 2022, 9% of tenants in eviction court had a lawyer, compared to 51% of landlords, according to data collected by Portland State University. If passed, the tax would have established a fund to pay for lawyers to represent any tenants threatened with eviction. It also would have created a tenant resource office in Multnomah County, which would serve to educate renters on their legal rights.
The county has other revenue sources focused on similar issues, the Metro Supportive Housing Services tax. This is an income tax that funds programs to keep people at risk of homelessness in housing. Multnomah County currently spends some of those dollars on eviction prevention programs – which often assists tenants by helping cover the cost of rent or late fees. None of that funding is explicitly reserved for legal defense, but county commissioners can decide whether to redirect tax dollars toward that work in the future.