By Kevin C. Cronin
Renter protections are consumer protections, and right now renters in Eugene are being squeezed until they fall into homelessness. On March 13, the Eugene City Council will convene a hearing to discuss a package of renter protections. This package includes a homelessness prevention measure called Displacement Prevention Assistance (DPA), in addition to caps on security deposits and requirements to process rental applications in the order received.
While I support all three of these proposals, I’d like to focus here on how no-cause evictions harm vulnerable members of our community and how DPA can help prevent and mitigate these harms.
In 2011, I was a student at the University of Oregon when I received a no-cause termination notice that gave me 30 days to move out. As I searched for a new home, I was surprised to see my current unit advertised at a substantially higher monthly rent. I was unable to find new housing and pay a security deposit on such short notice, so I became homeless for several months. Eventually, I found stable housing after saving up for a few months.
A few years later, in 2015, I was given another no-cause termination. My landlord planned to renovate the unit in order to charge higher rent. I wiped out my entire savings to get into my next place. Just a year later, in 2016, my landlord passed away. The estate no-cause evicted us in order to sell the property. I couch surfed for four months until I could find another affordable unit.
No-cause evictions are happening nearly every day in our community. The Springfield Eugene Tenant Association publishes a monthly hotline report that provides sobering data regarding no-cause eviction in our town: In 2022, 259 tenants received a no-cause termination notice or faced a no-cause eviction proceeding.
Each time, the landlord makes a business decision in order to charge more rent or sell their asset in a thriving real estate market, while the financial burden imposed by no-cause eviction falls on the tenant. In my case, I was unable to come up with money to move on short notice and became homeless.
This struggle is not unique. Many renters, especially seniors and people with disabilities who live independently on Social Security, are extremely unlikely to be able to come up with first, last and a new deposit within 90 days. Even with the statutorily required notice, when tenants are forced to leave their homes through no fault of their own, the economic consequences are severe and put individuals and families at extreme risk of homelessness.
DPA seeks to address this inequity by balancing the financial scales while preserving landlord’s property rights. DPA requires landlords to pay tenants three months of fair market rent when the landlord issues either a no-cause termination notice, or a rent increase that causes the tenant to move. This financial assistance will allow the tenant to find a comparable housing unit on short notice while protecting a landlord’s right to make business decisions about their property. It puts the cost of that business decision on the party who reaps the benefits and dramatically reduces the chance the tenant falls into homelessness. DPA is an upstream solution that our City Council can implement with little cost to the taxpayer.
Portland adopted a similar policy in 2019 and saw a dramatic decrease in reports of no-cause eviction, while experiencing a significant increase of new rental housing developments. The Portland measure was challenged in court twice and was upheld by the Oregon Supreme Court in November 2021. Just last month, Los Angeles passed a DPA measure that is even more progressive than Portland or Eugene’s proposal. DPA has a proven track record of success and is being adopted by cities up and down the West Coast.
Consumer protection is a common and necessary function of our government. The Eugene City Council must pass Displacement Prevention Assistance and the other provisions of Phase 2 Renter Protections.
Kevin C. Cronin is an organizer with Eugene Tenant Alliance, a political action committee that fights for tenants.