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When the Oregon Legislature passed its rent control limits last year, there was what seemed, at first, to be an odd exception. The law did not include affordable housing.

That’s because affordable housing already has federal limits. And in Oregon, the state already has additional regulations for rent control for affordable housing.

Oregon’s Housing Stability Council, a policymaking body, is smart to be reviewing the state regulations to ensure they are working right.

The 2019 state law caps rent increases to 7% plus inflation during any 12-month period. The 2018 state rules for affordable housing are more complicated. Basically, rent increases up to 5% are reviewed by staff at the state’s Housing and Community Services agency. Rent increases over 5% get more scrutiny. They are reviewed by an executive committee at the agency. Some of the things looked at are comparable rent and reasonableness for tenants.

The intent is to protect affordability for tenants, first and foremost. But the state also wants to ensure buildings remain financially viable for owners and buildings get necessary improvements.

When staff informally surveyed some owners and property managers of affordable housing, the results signaled they want a change. Clear majorities supported getting the state out of regulating increases under 5% altogether and streamlining the process for increases over that amount.

Staff suggested to the Housing Stability Council that it consider two changes: creating a lowered barrier to allow increases up to 5% for existing tenants and allowing up to the state’s limit for new tenants. After all, the owners are already subject to federal restrictions on keeping housing affordable.

There is an additional issue the council and the state agency can do little about. Oregon’s additional rent regulations only apply to about 60% to 70% of the affordable housing in the state. New affordable housing is covered. Not every project was covered in the past.

The Housing Stability Council received an initial briefing on the proposals in December and will meet again on them in February. The proposed changes seem fair, but the council wanted more feedback from owners and tenants before making a decision.

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