February 26, 2024

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Eugene councilor predicts ‘catastrophic’ increase in renter evictions during August

6 min read
One city councilor says Eugene's renter protection package will hurt the very people it is meant to protect: "I think we're putting a bunch of people out of their homes tonight."

Eugene’s city council voted July 24 on a package of renter protections. One councilor has years of experience in the local housing market.

Councilor Mike Clark: As somebody who works in this area, I can say I’m utterly convinced this will have a negative effect on precisely the people it’s intended to be a benefit for. This will harm renters across our city in a catastrophic way. I’m trying not to use hyperbole here, but really believe that the amount of rental housing that we will lose will be substantial, which will drive prices up. We can’t repeal the laws of supply and demand here. And this will dramatically affect supply.

[00:00:50] Mayor Lucy Vinis: I just want to remind everybody that this process started in 2018, and there is no shortage of data, concern, testimony. We have put a lot of time into this, that every delay impacts people who are very vulnerable in a merciless rental market in this community. This was put forward because tenants are suffering. If they weren’t suffering, this would not have been a sustained issue that has come back to council now for five years. So I would urge action now… I would encourage you to pass this.

[00:01:31] Councilor Mike Clark: Something that will come as a shock I am sure to absolutely no one, I absolutely feel exactly the opposite as the mayor on this. Passing this tonight will increase radically the number of people hurt in our community. It will help nearly none.

[00:01:51] It is my contention as a professional in this field that we will see a radical change and a significant decrease in the number of available rental units in this market.

[00:02:02] I already know, from working with just the number of people who own rentals in Eugene that are now beginning the process of selling them. As a professional, I make money in the financing world from people who sell and then buy a home instead of renting.

[00:02:19] So actually, if this passes, I make more money. That’s my personal level of interest. But it’s horrible policy, because of the number of people it will hurt, and the amount of opportunities that people who can only rent will be denied in our community with significantly fewer rentals.

[00:02:38] [City] Manager [Medary], my question: Can you talk about how to measure impact? For example, will you know when people sell rental units in our community? If so, how? Or can you keep track of that?

[00:02:54] City Manager Sarah Medary: There’s some definite challenges with the amount of data that we have available to us and what we can track. But we understand we have the need to set a pretty quick baseline so that in two years, you really understand that.

[00:03:05] So we’re just starting to kind of dig into that and figure out where we might need to draw from. But I think it will be challenging to fill out all of those details that you’re pointing out.

[00:03:18] Councilor Mike Clark: Is there any way to know the number of evictions that will happen as a consequence of tonight’s action, if this passes? Because I suspect there will be quite a lot of people who decide, when we pass this, to sell their rental units, and thus evict the current tenants.

[00:03:40] Will Dowdy (Community Development Director): We won’t have that number specifically, but we will look for finding out about that in a couple of key ways. One will be through eviction reporting. If it’s connected to a sale, then we will mark that down.

[00:03:55] We will be very interested in the cause of any evictions. The other would be through working with Tenant Hotline and tracking that information, any information they have through that.

[00:04:09] Councilor Mike Clark: When you say Tenant Hotline, you’re talking about Democratic Party folks that work at the Springfield Eugene Tenant Association?

[00:04:16] Will Dowdy (Community Development Director): We have a contract with SETA, that’s—

[00:04:19] Councilor Mike Clark: That’s what I’m talking about—who have an interest, politically and otherwise, in not giving you the information that we’re talking about.

[00:04:26] Will Dowdy (Community Development Director): I would say that we…

[00:04:29] Councilor Mike Clark: They’re the ones who brought up this in the renter protections, in the first place.

[00:04:34] Will Dowdy (Community Development Director): We’re talking about the same group. We’re talking about them differently and we will work with them to get any information that they can provide on numbers.

[00:04:45] Councilor Mike Clark: I hope you will search for an objective means of data that show the number of people evicted based on this. I don’t know how we’ll do an evaluation at some future point about its success or failure without objective data that doesn’t come from the people who were advocating this for months in the first place, as the mayor mentioned, since 2018.

I appreciate anything you can do. Thank you.

[00:05:15] Councilor Greg Evans: Question for staff: As part of the review, are we going to be taking a look at whether or not rentals move from long-term rentals to short-term rentals as a result of this? Would that be one of the measures that we will be looking at, in terms of evaluation, as we move down the line if we pass this tonight and we’re looking two years down the line.

I’ve had some anecdotal and some other conversations with long-term and short term landlords that have said, they may move out of the long-term rental market and towards moving their units into short-term rentals as a result, which would not be good for us in the long run.

[00:06:05] City Manager Sarah Medary: Yeah, we definitely have the ability to track some of the short-term. We’re working through what the measures will need to be. And I’ll probably have a better idea of that in the fall. And I can check in with you. But your motion literally said “a qualitative and quantitative analysis of impacts to renters, landlords and the rental housing market.” So that would, the rental housing market would be, is it shifting from short-term (Okay.)

[00:06:31] Councilor Mike Clark: I suspect doing a head count that this will pass. City Manager, I know I’ve heard the comments tonight. I suspect that Councilor Evans is correct. I’ve counseled a number of people that I work with, who are rental owners, that it is a wiser move and probably a greater financial advantage to have an Airbnb than a long-term rental in Eugene.

[00:06:55] I suspect that we’re going to see a quite a lot of evictions happen in the interim time between this passage and when it takes effect. My understanding of that is 30 days. Am I right? (Yeah, that’s correct.) So I certainly hope we have some manner to capture how many evictions take place between now and the next 30 days, because I think it will be absolutely substantial, that people will want to move on this before they have the liability to pay the two months’ worth of relocation assistance. And I think those numbers won’t be small in this community.

[00:07:36] So, I think we’re putting a bunch of people out of their homes tonight, if we pass this.

[00:07:40] Mayor Lucy Vinis: All right. Thank you. With that, the motion is on the table. All in favor: five. Opposed: two. So that passes.

[00:07:50] John Q: Mike Clark suggests the city is paying Lane County Democrats to measure the results of their own policies. Monday night, renter protection becomes the third issue approved by the city council despite significant public opposition. Two of those high-profile decisions were recently sent back for rework. A controversial effort to extend middle housing mandates just got sent back by a court. The council also reversed a ban that would have affected NW Natural.

Mike Clark predicts renter protection will be the next council decision to get sent back. He wants independent reporting of evictions, which he predicts will soar in the next 30 days.

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