Our Viewpoint: Vote ‘No’ on Portland’s Question A

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Debate over the June 13 referendum concerning rent control in Portland has been mostly low-key. Compared to last fall’s highly charged debate over changes to the city charter, including a proposal for a powerful elected mayor position which was rejected, discussion about a new proposal from city landlords to end some rent control protections has been quiet.

But the lack of intensity belies the importance of the decision that Portland voters will make, in what is usually a low turnout June election.

Question A on the June ballot is an attempt by landlords to turn back one of the key provisions in the current rent control ordinance, which was passed by voters in 2020, and tightened further in 2022. If passed, Question A would remove any restraints on the amounts that landlords could raise rents after a tenant voluntarily leaves an apartment. The current limit for that increase is 5 percent of the base rent.

This proposal comes as Portland still suffers from a crisis of housing affordability. We do believe that government has a role in trying to navigate this challenge, and to work on behalf of residents to restrain housing costs. Many of those caught in this affordability vise are the young people who are attracted to this vibrant city, and are working two or more jobs to pay the rent on apartments that are hard to find.

One of the features of the present rent control ordinance passed by Portland voters is a rent control board set up to decide proposals for rent increases. While the board has gotten off to a rocky start, without sufficient staff support from the city or buy-in from landlords, we feel that it can be made to function as an effective mediator for rent increases, if given the chance.

The city also needs to maximize its efforts to increase and enhance the stock of workforce housing. The unfettered development that is still targeting the city is often done by developers who avoid the requirements to build affordable housing by paying into the city’s affordable housing fund. The city should focus on efforts to use that fund to promote housing.

The effort to restrain rents will require action on many fronts, from expanding supply to supporting reasonable rent control rules. Question A would set back that effort and should be voted down on June 13.


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