The last two weeks in the Oregon Legislature have been hectic. Yesterday was the deadline for bills in their originating chamber to move out of that chamber. In other words, House bills need to be out of House Committees and Senate bills had to be out of the Senate. This results in a large number of legislative proposals not moving forward which almost always is a good thing. The ten days leading up to this deadline is intense with lots of last minute proposals struggling to move out of committee.
HB 3016 Coalition Bill – Sails Out of Oregon House
There are three legislative proposals MHCO has been closely monitoring and lobbying. The first is the coalition bill with the language on past due taxes on abandoned homes (HB 3016). MHCO enthusiastically supports this bill – it is our top legislative priority. As reported earlier this week the this legislative proposal passed out of the Oregon House of Representatives on a unanimous vote (60-0) in favor.
HB 2564 – Rent Discussions
Unfortunately, the issue of rent in manufactured home communities received traction in both the House and Senate over the past 10 days. In the House a proposal on inclusionary zoning (HB 2564) started to attract some discussion on rent and indirectly rent control. HB 2564 lifts the statewide preemption on inclusionary zoning (ORS 197.309) in Oregon. As the discussion on this legislation moved forward it attracted interest in repealing the statewide preemption on rent control (ORS 91.255). The House did NOT add that language, but it was tangentially mentioned in the House floor debate. Here are three excerpts from the HB 2564 House floor debate that are concerning:
- Rep Gallegos (D-Hillsboro) - “Colleagues while I am supportive of 2564, I do not think this bill goes far enough, as has been said. As written, this bill only applies to first time sale of property and not to rental property. It is my hope that we can lift the preemption of local inclusionary zoning in the rental market as well. Even in this session or even in those to come and give local government the tools they need to provide affordable housing in their communities.”
- Rep Keny-Guyer (D-Portland) - “It’s been mentioned also that this does not affect rental it only effects sales, that’s unfortunate…but it is still important in terms of rental because when we can help people get into their first time homeownership it means that there’s, we’re lifting some of the compression on the rental market. Part of the reason that the rents are so high right now is because very few people have opportunities to get into their first time homeownership.”
- Oregon Speaker of the House Rep Kotek (D-Portland) - “…It will be not the last time we talk about housing on this floor, hopefully not, there are some proposals that I think are very important in terms of providing access to affordable housing in the rental market.”
The consensus in the Capitol is that HB 2564 will not move forward with any amendments addressing rents or rent control. The legislation’s fate in the Senate is unclear even without any additional “rent” amendments. However, the House floor debate was alarming in the number of references to rent. It should be a wake up call for everyone.
Legislative Task Force on Affordable MH Home Park Living (SB 529)
The third bill that MHCO has been closely monitoring is SB 529. This bill also deals with inclusionary zoning. Senator Gelser (D-Corvallis) who is chair of the Senate Committee On Human Services and Early Childhood had several constituents complain about rent in a community inside her district. As a result of those complaints she indicated that she wanted to add rent control to SB 529. MHCO was able to talk her out of that idea – but she still insisted proposing an amendment to SB 529 establishing a “Task Force on Affordable Manufactured Home Park Living” consisting of 14 members, of which 1 person would represent landlords. The task force “shall develop recommendations to protect manufactured home owners from predatory and inappropriate rent increases ….”
In my twenty years of experience in the Oregon State Capitol I have learned that these kinds of study groups are designed to come up with the conclusion the initiator of the group wants. Fortunately the committee chair was unable to adopt the task force amendment due to opposition from Senator Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham). The amendment was tabled.
Although she did not have the votes to pass the “task force” amdendment Senator Gelser did lecture those attending the public hearing. Senator Gelser is looking to the landlord-tenant coalition to discuss the issue of rent and rental policy. Given the super majority of Democrats in the Senate we will have to find a way in the coalition to review this issue in depth. The good news is that we retain some control of this issue by participating in the coalition rather than leaving it to a committee of 14 governor appointed individuals. We were very, very fortunate that the task force proposal was tabled.
There are several MHCO Board members that deserve to be recognized for helping defeat the “task force” proposal. Thanks to Dale Strom for attending yesterday’s public hearing in Salem. Dale, along with Robert Danielson, Adam Cook and Tom Jarmer all wrote quality, personal/professional letters to Senator Monnes Anderson over the weekend. This always makes a big difference - so THANK YOU!
We are now halfway thru the 2015 Oregon Legislative Session. MHCO is working on passage of the coalition bill (HB 3016) in the Senate. We will also be watching closely HB 2564 (Inclusionary Zoning). Although anything can happen, it is very likely that we will be able to pass the coalition bill thus making significant changes to past due taxes on abandoned homes. This is something we have wanted to pass for a decade. It is also unlikely that the inclusionary bill will include a rent control provision. However, the issue of rent has received much more visibility this session than any recent session and given the make up of the Oregon Legislature with close to super majorities in both chambers we all need to take notice. We may have defeated the task force – but make no mistake rent is in the spot light. Please keep that in mind as we move forward – the last thing we need is an “Oregonian” story on unfair rental policies.