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Rents fall, protests continue

Portland rents went down last month for the first time in years, according to a recent survey.

But don't tell that to the dozens of activists who temporarily disrupted a Multnomah County Commission meeting Thursday morning to demand a freeze on evictions and rent increases.

“The most recent homeless are families. They’re people with full time jobs, they’re people with children who have no other options but to sleep in a tent on the street because there’s no vacancy and the rents are too high,” says Jamey Duhamel, who showed up at the meeting as part of a protest organized by Portland Tenants United.

Ironically, the protest happened the some day that ABODO national rent tracking firm released a survey saying the average rent for a one-bedroom Portland apartment fell from $1,303 in March to $1,216 in April.

The 7 percent drop was the fifth biggest decline in the country, where Las Vegas led the way with an 11 percent reduction, according to the survey. You can read the results at www.abodo.com/blog/april-2016-national-apartment-report.

The one-month decline in small comfort for most Portland renters, however. ABODO previously reported that Portland rents jumped 14.8 percent last year, the biggest increase in the country.

The 2016 Oregon Legislature reacted to the situation by passing a law that prohibits rent increases during the first year of occupancy. The law also requires 90 days notice for rent increases after that and no-cause evictions. The previous requirement was 30 days.

The protesters said those changes are not nearly enough to protect renters facing evictions, and they demanded the

“The 90-day notice on rent increases and no-cause evictions [do] not protect a renter from getting a no-cause eviction. It doesn’t protect a renter from getting a rent increase… It gives them more time to deal with profound trauma,” said Margot Black.

The commission did not take any action at the Thursday meeting. Oregon law prohibits local rent control.

KOIN News 6 contributed to this story. You can see its report on the protest at koin.com/2016/04/06/group-wants-portland-to-ban-evictions-freeze-rent-hikes/