Tenant protections help prevent homelessness
As a national study shows the stark connection between evictions and homelessness, a recent mass eviction in Portland shows the need for tenant protections
A new report released this month has an important message for Oregon policy makers grappling with the statewide housing and homelessness crisis: in the face of a chronic lack of affordable housing, tenant protections help increase housing stability and reduce homelessness. The study, “Protect Tenants, Prevent Homelessness” was released by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.
The report offers a survey of research that shows a clear connection between evictions and homelessness, pointing out that numerous studies establish evictions as a primary cause of homelessness. Research from New York, California, Washington, Massachusetts and other states shows that between 12 to 66 percent of people experiencing homelessness had experienced an eviction or involuntary displacement that led them to homelessness.
The study calls for tenant protections that keep rental housing affordable, reduce housing instability and eviction, and prohibit discriminatory rental admission policies. Recommendations include limiting evictions without cause and establishing rent stabilization policies.
“Renters rights protections appear to be critical to preventing and ending homelessness and they can often be implemented quickly and cost-effectively,” state the report’s authors.
A recent story in the Willamette Week highlighted the importance of tenant protections. After purchasing a building that had been home for decades to low-income immigrants and refugees, the new California owner made it clear that rents would be going up significantly and eviction notices were likely on their way. While the landlord offered tenants money to move out, many of the tenants with limited English were unable to understand the situation or their rights and believed they had no choice but to move-out quickly. While relocation assistance helps to mitigate the risk of immediate homelessness, it is an inadequate defense against displacement for those now saddled with moving costs and much higher rents. At least one resident was unable to find an affordable home in Portland and had to move to Aloha and still had a double digit rent increase. Other residents are still struggling to find a place to land.
“Displacement continues to be a huge problem in Oregon where the housing market leaves fewer and fewer homes available for renters with low and very low incomes, and there has been a huge disruption in the lives of the people at Holgate Manor,” says Alison McIntosh, Oregon Housing Alliance. “Relocation assistance provides a protection against immediate homelessness. But when people move across the city line, those protections disappear.”
The lack of affordable housing statewide, especially for very low-income people, is dire. There are only 25 affordable units available for every 100 families with extremely low income. Two-thirds of these renters are paying more than half their income in rent, which leaves tenants extremely vulnerable to losing their homes. When faced with double digit rent increases or no cause evictions, homelessness is too often the stark reality.
The Stable Homes for Oregon Families Coalition, made up of housing advocates and organizations from around the state, continues to call for statewide tenant protections to help reduce instability, homelessness and displacement for Oregonians. In the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers failed to act. The housing crisis continues to disproportionately affect low-income children and families and people of color. To learn more, go to www.StableHomesOR.org.