In Oregon, there has been a longstanding housing crisis that has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Oregon tenants who are on the brink of eviction are losing the safety nets that kept them housed. The statewide rental assistance program has stopped despite an overwhelming need, stopping new applications, reverting all federal funds requested and committed to renters.
Oregon has a higher rate of people experiencing homelessness than nearly every other state in America. A 2020 federal review found that 35 people in Oregon are experiencing homelessness per 10,000. Only three states had a higher rate. Furthermore, an estimated 8,355 households are at risk of eviction, as protections keeping them housed have expired after they waited for rental assistance for more than two months. More than 22,000 households are still waiting to be considered for help.
“We get calls from people every day who are in this situation,” said Sybil Hebb, the director of Legislative Advocacy for the Oregon Law Center. “The overwhelming word I would use to describe those calls is just pervasive desperation and fear.”Hebb said there have been more than 2,200 eviction proceedings filed in Oregon for non-payment. From 1,000 to 3,000 new rental assistance applications are submitted each week.
State Sen. Kayse Jama, who is leading a legislative housing committee, says there are three solutions that “need to happen at the same time” to keep Oregonians housed, additional funding for the rental assistance program, extending the 60-day eviction safe harbor, and speeding up rental assistance processing.
Governor Kate Brown signed a law in June giving renters and tenants 60 day grace periods for which they cannot be evicted.