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Housing crisis, rent control discussions to find home in this year's legislative session

Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, right, speaks as Oregon House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, listens in Salem, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. Oregon legislative leaders are meeting at the Capitol in a forum with state media representatives to outline agendas for the upcoming legislative session in February. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

It will come as no surprise to renters in Portland that rents are skyrocketing into the stratosphere.

Earlier this week, KATU's news partners at Willamette Week reported that about 40 elementary students may need to move because the Northeast Portland apartment complex where they live with their families near their school is jacking up the rent more than 100 percent.

In fact, KATU obtained one renter's notice from the property management company that owns Normandy Apartments on Northeast Killingsworth Street that informed the tenant the rent was going up $800 a month -- from $750 a month to $1,550 a month. The increase goes into effect April 1.

Ideas to deal with the issue have been proposed from the city to the state level. Newly elected Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly proposed an ordinance that would force landlords to pay tenants' moving costs if they are issued no-cause evictions or have their rent increased more than 10 percent in one year.

On the state level several bills have been introduced for this year's legislative session that deal with the issue. One is from Democrat House Speaker Tina Kotek, who represents the citizens where those Rigler Elementary School students reside. House Bill 2001 would get rid of the statewide ban on the ability for cities and counties to establish some kind of rent control.

"Many of my colleagues in the House and Senate want to work on the housing crisis, and they think that lifting the preemption, the local preemption, right now on rent control is absolutely necessary," she said Thursday during a legislative preview event hosted by The Associated Press at the Capitol. "Dealing with no-cause evictions, dealing with rent stabilization is something we need to approach."

KATU News this week spoke to John DiLorenzo, an attorney who represents landlords. He's against any kind of rent control. Instead, he's proposing a $25 million Tenants Assistance Program that would allow renters who have had their rents significantly increased to get some sort of assistance to help pay their rents.

"The program would allow tenants who no longer feel that they can pay the new rent an opportunity to apply to nonprofits to take a look at their current circumstances to determine whether they qualify," he said.

He said the issue is simple economics that is currently on its way toward resolving itself.

"The reason why rents are so high is because every metric available says people are moving to Portland in droves, and the people who are moving here have income," DiLorenzo said.

The solution, he said, is to build more housing. And he added that more supply is coming online to meet the demand, which should help mitigate the high rents.

Kotek said the state already has a rental assistance program called Emergency Housing Assistance, but it's currently underfunded. She said DiLorenzo's proposal was not a solution.

"If we are really going to address our housing crisis from a budget perspective and help renters who might be having a problem, that is not the mechanism to do it," she said. "I think it's a ruse by landlords to get a tax break and say they're helping renters."

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