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Wheeler Rolls Out Tenants’ Bill of Rights

Saturday, February 13, 2016

 

The scarcity of housing and difficulties facing renters in Portland is no secret. As GoLocal reported, the Portland City Council took steps near then end of 2015 to give renters in the Rose City more rights. Now, leading mayoral candidate Ted Wheeler has unveiled his “Tenants Bill of Rights,” aimed at increasing protections for renters in the city.

“Portlanders face some of the fastest rising rents in the country. It is time for the city to step up to ensure renters are being treated fairly and that landlords are following the law,” Wheeler said when announcing the program.. “Today’s proposal provides a path to ensuring that people aren’t being priced out and moved out of this community. My hope is that we can build on the good work being done by the Welcome Home Coalition and A Home for Everyone.”

Wheeler’s “Bill of Rights,” names three major protections for tenants: “the right to rent”; “the right to recourse”; and “the right to remain.” 

“Oftentimes the landlords have been in court much more than the tenants, and the court system favors them. I have three retaliation cases I’ve won in the last 15 years," said attorney Harry Ainsworth, whose clients are primarily tenants. "The retaliation statute is not a great protection, and 99% of tenants don’t have the resources to risk an adverse judgment if they lose – that’s a $4,000 to $10,000 hit, that's a destroyed tenant.”

The measure would call for a city office within the housing Bureau dedicated to landlord-tenant affairs, a just cause eviction requirement, improved application and rental process and other provisions. 

“It doesn’t make a difference if we have robust rules on the books if they aren’t enforced,” said Chelsea DeLoney, a single mother whose housing search took six months. “Right now, tenants face a lose-lose proposition – live with violations or complain and get evicted. Ted Wheeler’s Tenants’ Bill of Rights will finally empower Portland renters, which in turn will cut down on displacements, improve economic security, and promote stronger neighborhoods.”

Between August 2014 and August 2015, annual effective rents rose an average of 15.4% in Portland, the fastest in the country.

“That 15.4% is really unhealthy, unless wages are increasing at a similar rate, which they are not,” said Margot Black, a Lewis and Clark College Mathematics Instructor and tenants’ rights activist. “This year my rent went up $250, and my take-home pay went up $30.”

See Wheeler’s “Tenants’ Bill of Rights” below:

The Right to Rent, because a home creates a foundation for health, family, and economic success; because there are currently too many barriers to finding a home;
The Right to Recourse, because renters should know their rights; because both landlords and tenants must be accountable to the law;
The Right to Remain, because housing stability has positive impacts on families, communities, health, education, and the economy; because housing stability helps ensure children show up to school ready to learn; because evictions disrupt lives, jobs, and can contribute to homelessness.

To ensure these rights are upheld, the following policies are proposed:

Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs: Create the Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs within the Portland Housing Bureau to mediate disputes between tenants and landlords. The office would inform landlords and renters of their rights and responsibilities, including a clear and consistent set of standards for landlords. The office would be funded by shifting existing resources within the Housing Bureau, or through fees paid by the industry the office regulates.

Just Cause Evictions: Establish a set of Just Cause Eviction Criteria, similar to the City of Seattle, which details 18 such criteria. Relocation payments will be required for certain Just Cause evictions and any No Cause evictions, should they still be allowed.

Funding for Affordable Housing: Increased demolitions in Portland lead to increased property tax revenues from the new homes built, because the new homes will be assessed at current market levels. The city should consider capturing the additional property tax revenues for these properties, and dedicating the revenues to affordable housing.

Reduce Roadblocks to Building Affordable Housing: Immediately reduce or waive fees for affordable housing, cut red tape, and streamline the process. Affordable housing developers should have a single point of contact at the city to help navigate the process. Closely evaluate the effects of design review upon affordable housing development, and create a standard set of approved materials and styles for affordable housing to reduce the time in design review.

PDX Rent: Encourage the creation of an online database for landlords and prospective renters that includes a standardized rental application and background check. Portland entrepreneurs are already lending their talents to affordable housing and tenants’ issues. Tyrone Poole recently won the 1776 Challenge Cup Regional in San Francisco for his site NoAppFee.com, which utilizes data and technology to promote equal access to housing. The city should be capitalizing on these innovations.

Inspections: Work to implement the Bureau of Development Services and Housing Bureau plan to increase inspections. Renters deserve a safe, well-maintained place to live.

 

Related Slideshow: SLIDESHOW: Ted Wheeler Announces Portland Mayoral Candidacy on Rooftop of Revolution Hall

Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler was joined by the press and many close friends, family members, and supporters on the rooftop of Revolution Hall off of SE Stark so that he could officially make his candidacy announcement for Portland mayor in the 2016 mayoral race.

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Wheeler's podium before his arrival.

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A string of Wheeler supporters stood behind him during his announcement. 

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Wheeler supporters wait for his arrival.

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Representative Lew Frederick (D) from District 43 is a Wheeler supporter.

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A Wheeler staffer readies reporters for Wheeler's entrance.

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Media and Wheeler staffers at the announcement speech.

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A reporter at the announcement speech. 

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Ted Wheeler arrived on the rooftop to heavy applause. 

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Representative Lew Frederick (D) from District 43 gave the opening speech at the Wheeler mayoral announcement.

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The Portland business community turned out to speak on Wheelers' behalf. 

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The owner of Mother's Bistro, Lisa Schroeder, gave a speech in honor of Ted Wheeler's candidacy announcement.

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Lisa Schroeder and Ted Wheeler shake hands. 

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Ted Wheeler gave his speech with supporters surrounding him. 

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Mayoral Candidate Ted Wheeler spoke of repaving roads, helping the homeless, issues of racial equity, and resurrecting the "Portland weird" of former Portland mayor Sam Adams. 

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Supporters and media watched as Wheeler spoke. 

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Wheeler greeted supporters after his speech. 

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Wheeler shook hands with supporters after his speech. 

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Ted Wheeler's wife, Katrinka Wheeler, whispers something into her husband's ear as he thanks friends and supporters after his announcement speech.

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Ted Wheeler hugged one of his supporters. 

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Ted Wheeler's mother pets a visiting dog after her son's announcement. 

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"He's an ally to the LGBT community, he cares about making the situation better for the homeless -- and he has a long history of showing that he cares," said owner of Mother's Bistro Lisa Schroeder. 

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Katrina Wheeler speaks with her husband's mother as well as friends after her husband's announcement speech. 

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Media and Wheeler supporters stuck around after Wheeler's speech. 

 
 

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