Commissioners in Oregon’s most populous county voted Thursday to extend a pause on evictions, for tenants who have applied for rental assistance, until the end of September.
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said the demand for rental assistance in the county that includes Portland is estimated “to be twice as high as all other Oregon counties combined.” Officials say an additional month will give service providers more time to process and distribute funds to struggling tenants.
“This temporary extension of protections offers a necessary safeguard against the risk of evictions that would disproportionately affect low-income households and communities of color as they await rent relief,” Kafoury said.
Oregon is one of several states that enacted a moratorium last year halting eviction proceedings. However, the measure expired at the end of June. While Oregon had $200 million in federal emergency assistance to help tenants and landlords with current and outstanding rent, a record-breaking number of rent assistance requests created a backlog.
In June, lawmakers passed a “Safe Harbor” amendment to provide a safety net for tenants still waiting for their applications to be processed. Under the amendment, which received bipartisan support, tenants who are unable to pay their July or August rent cannot be evicted for 60 days if they provide proof to their landlord that they have applied for rental assistance through Oregon Housing and Community Services.
Multnomah County is home to more than 10,000 of the approximately 15,000 Oregon households that have applied for state-funded rent assistance. With statewide Safe Harbor protections lasting only through August, the county's Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to extend the eviction pause for its residents for an additional 30 days.
“We have reorganized and expanded our systems in preparation for the challenge,” Kafoury said. "Still, the unprecedented scale of need, and the resources to meet it, far exceed those of other counties across the state, and the extra time will be vital to getting people the help they need."
Multnomah County has created two new rent assistance teams to augment its distribution efforts: one processing requests coming through the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program, and another entirely dedicated to eviction prevention. The county also has a pool of staff standing by if the capacity of the application processing team is stretched.
Sara Cline is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.