Oregon eviction filings above pre-pandemic levels; advocates say more state aid needed

By Julia Shumway (Oregon Capital Chronicle)
Nov. 10, 2023 10:21 p.m.

The $88 million lawmakers set aside this spring is on pace to run out by next summer, advocates said

FILE - State senate in session at the Oregon Capitol in Salem, March 20, 2023. The Senate Housing and Development Committee heard from the Oregon Law Center that the number of evictions may increase if the state doesn’t provide more money for emergency rent assistance.

FILE - State senate in session at the Oregon Capitol in Salem, March 20, 2023. The Senate Housing and Development Committee heard from the Oregon Law Center that the number of evictions may increase if the state doesn’t provide more money for emergency rent assistance.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Landlords are filing more court evictions monthly than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic, though the number of evictions trended down after the Oregon Legislature passed a law giving tenants more time to make up late rent.

THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:

That’s according to a presentation lawmakers on the Senate Housing and Development Committee heard from the Oregon Law Center, which advocated for eviction protections. The group’s legislative advocacy director, Sybil Hebb, warned lawmakers that the number of evictions may increase if the state doesn’t provide more money for emergency rent assistance: The $88 million lawmakers set aside this spring is on pace to run out by next summer, with about a year left in the two-year budget cycle.

In 2019, Oregon landlords filed an average of about 1,560 eviction suits each month. A pandemic-related eviction moratorium lasted through June 2021, and tenants with pending applications for rent assistance were protected from eviction through June 2022.

Those limits meant the number of evictions plummeted in 2020 and 2021, then skyrocketed when the protections phased out in late summer 2022. Between October 2022 and March 2023, landlords filed an average of more than 2,000 evictions each month, and 87% of them were for not paying rent.

Related: Multnomah County tax measure would give people facing eviction legal help, critics say it could do more harm than good

House Bill 2001, which took effect in late March, requires landlords to give tenants 10 days notice when filing for eviction for nonpayment of rent, rather than the previously allowed 72 hours. Those notices must include information on where tenants can find rent assistance and legal assistance for court proceedings. And the new law extended eviction court deadlines, giving tenants at least a month between the initial complaint and a trial to come up with the overdue rent and stay in their homes.

Since the law, more eviction filings have ended with dismissals – landlords get paid and tenants stay in their homes. About 50% of cases were dismissed in September, compared to 28% of cases in January, according to the Oregon Law Center.

THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:

“The outcomes for tenants are far better than they were during the time period when there was no protection in place earlier this year,” Hebb said.

Related: Eviction prevention programs bring stability to those on the brink

Housing advocates have pushed for more rent assistance because it’s cheaper to keep people in their homes than to rehouse families who have been evicted.

In Marion and Polk counties, rent assistance has helped about 6,000 families stay in their homes, said Jimmy Jones, executive director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency. The average two-bedroom apartment rent in Salem is $1,500, he said, but many of the people who receive aid are paying closer to $1,875 per month.

People who benefit most from rent assistance usually earn too much to qualify for other aid, like Section 8 vouchers, but they don’t make enough to afford ever-increasing rents.

“It’s those individuals who don’t qualify for those resources, just the next tick up on that income scale,” Jones said.

Related: Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek approves billions to be spent on housing crisis

A household would need to earn $75,000, more than the median household income in the area, to spend 30% or less of its income on housing at an $1,875 rent.

Lawmakers are expected to approve more money for housing production and homelessness assistance during the 35-day legislative session that begins in February.

This story was originally published by the Oregon Capital Chronicle. Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and X.

THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:
THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:

Related Stories

Sam Freni-Rothschild runs the homelessness prevention program at the nonprofit, Path Home. Freni-Rothschild sits in an office at Path Home and scrolls through emails on his work laptop.

Eviction prevention programs bring stability to those on the brink

With the end of state and local eviction protections and the rapid rise in inflation, more people in the Portland metro area are teetering on the edge of homelessness. One of the ways to help keep people housed is to prevent them from losing their homes in the first place.