Gov. Kate Brown announced on Tuesday that she will call for a special legislative session on Dec. 13 to address eviction protections. Earlier in the day Oregon Housing and Community Services said they are pausing any new applications for the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program, or OERAP for at least six weeks.
OHCS received over 50,000 applications for the rental assistance program and so far 23,000 have been approved and almost $150 million dispersed.
"As we enter our coldest months, it is absolutely essential that we take action to ensure no additional Oregon families are evicted when rental assistance is on the way," Brown said in a statement.
Federal rental assistance funding is nearly used up, and Brown is advocating for a statewide solution that extends safe harbor protections for people that applied for assistance, ensures landlords are paid in full for owed rent, provides up to $90 million in rental assistance to low-income tenants and transitions the program from a large-scale pandemic-related program to a long-term one.
"Our federal funds for rental assistance will be nearly spent on December 1. I am continuing to work with federal officials at U.S. Treasury and the White House to secure additional federal emergency rental assistance funding for Oregon, but it is clear that a state solution is needed to address the urgent and immediate needs of Oregon renters. And, we must begin laying the groundwork now for the transition to local eviction prevention services after federal pandemic emergency programs draw to an end," Brown said.
The Oregon Legislature's Housing Committee Chairs Rep. Julie Fahey (D-Eugene) and Sen. Kayse Jama (D-Portland) praised the governor for calling the session.
"No Oregonian should be evicted while rental assistance is on the way. A special session is the only way to prevent this. Thanks to Governor Brown, the legislature is officially on track to fulfill our promise to Oregon renters," they said in a joint statement. "After months of work, we have developed a proposal to extend the state's bipartisan safe harbor protections and provide additional funds for direct rent assistance that will benefit both tenants and housing providers."
Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) said for the special session to work it must be meticulously crafted.
"Special sessions are the most difficult of all sessions. Everything must be carefully planned. We have a lot of work to do. I hope we will be ready," Courtney said in a statement.