Portland City Council

Portland City Council

Michael Clapp/OPB

The City of Portland declared a housing emergency Wednesday.

Over the last year, city officials say Portland has seen the highest increases in rent in the nation: close to 15 percent.

The city also has extremely low vacancy rates of about 3 percent.

At a City Council meeting Wednesday, Mayor Charlie Hales said renters need protection.

“No mayor takes pleasure in declaring an emergency in his or her city,” Hales said. “But this is one.”

An advocacy group called the Community Alliance of Tenants pushed for landlords to give a year’s notice when they want to increase rent, and they want a moratorium on no-cause evictions.

But city lawyers have advised commissioners against the ideas put forth Wednesday, saying state laws block local governments from enacting extensive rent controls.

Landlords say changing housing rules will not create more affordable housing.