Oregon State University has a billion-dollar endowment that is fed by pouring ever more students into our community, in numbers that aren’t sustainable. That alone would cause a housing problem. Additionally, Benton County is also burdened with some of the worst income inequality in the United States.

That combination has pushed us into a full-blown housing crisis here. Rents go up while housing stock deteriorates. Students live in self-described “luxury apartments” while working families get ripped off, squeezed out and become homeless.

What has been the official response to this local crisis? A lot of “concern,” but little action.

I suggest we copy Portland. They’ve changed the rules of the game there to protect renters and working families. Landlords used to be able to raise rents or pursue no-cause evictions with just 30 days’ notice. That’s the sort of precipitating event and short timeframe that can leave a family homeless, especially in tight, exploitative rental markets.

Now, landlords in Portland have to give 90 days notice for those things. And, in some cases, when working families are displaced, the landlords also have to provide financial relocation assistance. These steps take significant financial and time pressure off renters, and they don’t cost the city anything. Not a dime. Furthermore, these rules have been tested by the courts, and upheld.

So, why haven’t we copied Portland here? Why haven’t our elected leaders taken these simple steps to protect working families and prevent homelessness in Benton County?

Max Mania

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