Oregon Approves $100M Rental Assistance Boost

Today the Oregon State Legislature in a special session passed SB 5561 (2nd Special Session of 2021) that adds an additional $100 million in state funding to the federal Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP) to help tenants and landlords in need.

The Legislature also passed SB 891 (2nd Special Session of 2021) to ensure tenants who apply for rental assistance before June 30, 2022 cannot be evicted until their application is processed. The protections end on Sept. 30, 2022. The legislation is now with Governor Brown for her signature.

Following is a statement from Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) Executive Director Margaret Salazar:

“We are deeply appreciative that the Oregon State Legislature and Governor Brown came together to provide more time and protection for renters to get the rental assistance they need during this critical time. We know eviction risk is real for too many families. As renters testified to over the weekend, the looming fear of eviction is devastating. The anxiety of a 60-day clock hanging over the heads of tenants in need has taken a toll.”

“We are also grateful that additional state funds will go toward OERAP assistance while the state awaits the potential for additional federal funding. Together with our local program partners and our vendor Public Partnerships (PPL), we are quickly processing as many applications as possible so that landlords can be made whole, and tenants can remain safely and affordably housed.”

It’s been eight months since the launch of the federal OERAP, and as of this week, more than $181 million has been paid to more than 26,000 households. OERAP continues to be one of the nation’s leading programs. As of today, Oregon is ranked 4th in the nation, up from 6th in the nation last week, in the percentage of ERA funds paid out and obligated, as tracked by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. In the past 11 months, OHCS has distributed more than $381 million in emergency rental assistance––more than every year in the prior decade combined.
 
Highlights from the legislation that will impact tenants and landlords include:

  • Renters who fall behind on current or future rent now have until June 30, 2022to apply for OERAP to access the safe harbor period ending on Sept. 30, 2022. If they apply before June 30, they cannot be evicted before their application is processed. Renters must show their landlord they have applied for the program to receive the protections.
  • The new legislation overrides previous “safe harbor” periods passed by the Oregon State Legislature (60 days statewide) and some local jurisdictions (90 days in Multnomah County, unincorporated Washington County and Lane County).
  • An additional $100 million in state funds will be added to OERAP, which had previously been funded solely by federal funds. The state is working to secure additional federal funds from the U.S. Treasury, but the timeline is unclear.
  • OHCS will notify landlords if an application is approved or denied.
  • Landlords will have access to compensation if a tenant is denied rental assistance after using the safe harbor protections through the Landlord Guarantee Program, which will receive $10 million from SB 5561.
  • The Legislature also allocated $100 million for eviction prevention efforts in the immediate and intermediate term.
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