Portland City Council passes ordinance requiring tenant relocation assistance

City commissioners voted unanimously late Thursday night in favor of a contentious ordinance that would require landlords to help pay moving costs for tenants that are evicted without cause or have to move after a steep rent increase.

The tenant protection rule was proposed by Portland's newest city commissioner, Chloe Eudaly, who spoke at a housing advocates rally outside City Hall just before the vote.

Cheers erupted in council chambers as Eudaly cast the final vote in favor of the first ordinance she had introduce as a new city commissioner.

Just before she did so, however, she stressed that it was a temporary ordinance, it was not perfect, and the state will need to take action for more permanent change by lifting the prohibition on communities from implementing rent control.

"This is literally the only tool the city of Portland has to protect renters," she said.

The ordinance will be in effect for eight months.

Eudaly's fellow city commissioners echoed her sentiments that the new ordinance was not perfect. Commissioner Dan Saltzman said while it wasn't perfect, "it is necessary." And Commissioner Nick Fish argued it was "legally defensible and will provide immediate relief to people who are rent-burdened."

But one attorney has already warned of a lawsuit, saying the rule would conflict with the state law that prohibits rent control.

Mayor Ted Wheeler said before his yes vote that more lower-income housing is still needed to help resolve the issue of high rents.

"We should not demonize landlords," he said. "I met with a lot of landlords who helped me shape my own views."

The council meeting was standing room only as commissioners heard from people supporting and opposing the rule, that says if a landlord evicts a renter without cause or raises rent more than 10 percent, then the landlord must pay that tenant to relocate.

Some of those in attendance were part of the tenants rights rally that preceded the council vote.

“I grew up in Portland, so I’ve seen our rent increase in the last year. I'm a working professional and I think it’s crazy that even I have to worry if I’m going to be able to rent a place,” Renter Hannah Rosenau said.

Many renters like Hannah Rosenau think protection for renters is a must, because without it she says she lives in fear.

“You just hope your rent isn't going to increase as much as your neighbors' are, and that you have a place to live next year,” Rosenau said.

Among them, Christopher Frick - a landlord for more than 20 years.

“This is detrimental for landlords and tenants as well, we are going to be forced when we have vacancies to raise rent to the highest price possible and we really want our units rented that's the most important part to us,” Frick said.

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