Julia Shumway

(Oregon Capital Chronicle) A watered-down version of a proposal meant to prevent a repeat of the nearly 15% rent hikes allowed this year cleared a Senate committee on Thursday.

Oregon’s 2019 statewide rent control law caps increases on many buildings to no more than 7% plus inflation. Last year’s high inflation cleared the way for landlords to hike rents by 14.6%.

Sen. Wlnsvey Campos, D-Aloha, introduced Senate Bill 611 in January to change the allowable hike to no more than 8% or 3% plus inflation, whichever was lower. By the time the Senate Rules Committee voted to send the measure to the Senate floor on Thursday, the bill had been amended to the lesser of a 10% cap or 7% plus inflation.

Campos told committee members that she and supporters have had many conversations with renters, landlords and other legislators to reach an agreement on the bill.

“We feel that we have brought forth a bill that would benefit many Oregonians,” she said. “We have heard the stories of folks who were on the brink of losing their housing and whose voices have come forth a lot throughout this discussion, saying that these sorts of rent increases are the difference between them being able to stay in their homes or not.”

The changes weren’t enough for Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, who voted against the bill. Knopp and other Republicans also opposed the 2019 rent control law.

“While this policy may help some people, it will hurt many,” he said.

He said landlords who otherwise might not have raised rent now issue annual rent increases or charge the maximum allowed. Knopp, the executive vice president of the Central Oregon Builders Association, added that developers will build in states with fewer restrictions.

The real estate website Zillow estimates that the median Oregon rent is $1,810. Under the current law, that median rent could increase by almost $265 per month, or nearly $3,200 per year. The introduced version of SB 611 would have capped increases for that median apartment at about $145 per month, or just under $1,740 annually, and the latest version would result in a cap of $181 per month or about $2,170 per year.

Oregon’s rent control law only applies to buildings once they’re 15 years old, and it doesn’t apply to subsidized housing. There’s also no limit on how high landlords can set rent between tenants.

The measure’s future is unclear as Senate Republicans continue a quorum-denying walkout preventing the chamber from passing bills. Some Senate Republicans are continuing to participate in committee meetings but have stayed away from the Capitol when they’re scheduled to be on the floor.