Statewide Rent Control – is Oregon SB 608 a Model for the Entire Country?

SB 608 Oregon Rent control

SB 608 - Oregon's Statewide Rent Control Law

On March 2019, Oregon's legislator passed the country's first statewide rent control ordinance to protect residential tenants.  Rent control has been around since the 1970s, but was limited to small number of cities mainly in New York and California.  Since then it was expanded to more cities, but not without its critics.  The summary of the new rent control laws:

  • Tenants can be evicted for cause only, such as none payment of rent and breaking the lease after first year of tenancy
  • New construction is exempt from the law for 15 years
  • Landlords can raise the rent to whatever they wish after a tenant leaves
  • Rent cannot increase more than once a year and not more than 7% + CPI

This is a sweeping law as a response to a rapidly changing environment - the legislator and governor declared a state of emergency as a result of the housing crisis in Oregon.

It is too early to know if SB 608 will help the housing crisis in Oregon.  Rent control produced mixed results over the years - it helped tenants who decided to stay in the unit for a long period of time.  Rent control also created massive distortions and abnormalities in areas it was enforced - and did not stop rapidly rising rents.

California tried to pass a similar, more restrictive law in the 2018 election, but it failed at the polling box.  The arguments for these kind of tenant protection is the disruption that occurs as a result rising rents.  Families are displaced without much warning, workers don't have adequate housing security, and homelessness.

The main argument against this kind of laws is simple - it does help solve the problem in the long term.  The only thing that will solve a housing problem is more houses and more affordable units.

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