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Housing legislation, tenant protections gain momentum in Salem

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TRIBUNE PHOTO: PARIS ACHEN - Oregonians for $15 Now demonstrated on the steps of the Oregon Capitol in Salem Thursday, Feb. 18, in favor of hiking minimum wage and housing reform.SALEM — Lawmakers made progress Tuesday on two significant housing bills — churning out a last-minute deal with builders and real estate lobbyists on inclusionary zoning and approving a bill in the House that increases landlords' notice before raising rents.

The Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue unanimously recommended passing a bill to lift a ban on cities and counties requiring developers to include affordable housing units in their plans, known as inclusionary zoning. The bill is now headed for the Senate floor.

“It appears there is an agreement that everyone can come to the center on,” said Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton.

Senate Bill 1533 is “a monumental bill for this Legislature, which has been struggling with inclusionary zoning for many years,” Hass said.

Due to resistance from builders and the real estate industry, lawmakers offered a compromise that would ensure developers would receive incentives for offering affordable housing, including tax exemptions, fee waivers or expedited services.

The measure allows local government to require developers to offer up to 20 percent of units at below market rates in exchange for at least one incentive, such as tax exemptions, fee waivers or expedited services. Developers also may opt to pay a fee in lieu of the requirement. The requirements would apply only to multifamily housing projects with 20 or more units. The units would be offered to those who earn up to 80 percent of area median income.

The compromise bill also allows local governments to levy an up to 1 percent construction tax to help pay for developer incentives, pay for housing programs and provide down payment assistance for home ownership.

Meanwhile, the House passed a bill to increase notice for raising rent in month-to-month tenancies. The measure passed 48 to 11 with bipartisan support and heads to the Senate floor.

The bill was part of an omnibus housing package negotiated by House Democrats, landlords, builders and affordable housing advocates to address the state’s affordable housing shortage.

Tenant protections

Much of the housing package has fallen by the wayside — including addressing problematic no-cause evictions — in the compression of a 35-day legislative session. Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland, chairwoman of the House Committee on Human Services and Housing, said lawmakers failed to reach a deal on some of the other issues in time.

“This bill which aims to increase stability is a small step in the right direction,” Keny-Guyer said of Tuesday’s tenant protections bill. “It does not say what the rent should be. It just says give tenants more time.”

The bill prohibits landlords from raising rent for the first 12 months in a month-to-month tenancy and requires a 90-day notice, instead of the existing 30-day notice, before hiking rent after that point.

The city of Portland already requires 90 days’ notice.

The measure also increases fees landlords can charge tenants for violating a smoking ban from $50 to $250 after a warning. Another tenant protection to increase the notice period for no-cause evictions after a year of tenancy from 60 days to 90 days was stripped from the legislation.

Paris Achen is a reporter with the Pamplin Media Group/EO Media Group Capital Bureau in Salem.