A $350M plan to prevent housing crisis

This article provided by Oregon Transformation Newsletter,

By Dan Mason
Community Manager of MG Properties
President of Multifamily NW Board
Vice Chair of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission

Imagine 400 apartment properties in the Portland metro area shutting down. No workers to maintain their communities. No office personnel to handle domestic issues among residents. No invoices processed for the small businesses servicing those properties. Utilities not paid to the city and localities. Property taxes not paid to the state. What you would be seeing right before you would be a total breakdown of services and sense of community, and it would happen overnight. The danger is real.

As president of the largest multifamily housing association in Oregon, Multifamily NW, these are the things that I worry about if Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler gave an impression that tenants “don’t have to pay rent.” COVID-19 is wreaking havoc across Oregon, but you haven’t seen anything until people lose their homes. There is also something called a Rent Strike brewing. That’s when the tenant advocates bind together and refuse to pay rent, something that is currently happening nationally. With the job losses mounting, the problem of not being able to pay your most expensive bill, where you live, is a real one. Temporary rental assistance for this group of people should be the top priority of our elected leaders, but so far, the message has not been as well received. Over a month into this “Stay at Home” order we still have very little financial support from what is required in rental assistance.

How do we stabilize this group? Our association is asking for roughly $350,000,000 state-wide to keep tenants in their homes. This also includes single family rentals, which are closer to the brink than is being reported. Most single-family landlords own a home or a duplex for rent to supplement their retirement income. In a world before COVID-19, they are one bad eviction away from losing their total investment. I’ve heard a plethora of stories about how a roommate or relative took over a lease illegally, which then turned into a squatter situation, and led to thousands of dollars in legal bills to remedy. Without a financial stabilizer, such as rental assistance, these types of cases may bog down the courts when the eviction moratorium ends. The result will be single-family rentals sold off and out of the rental market, further adding to the rental housing shortage. This is a generational loss, not a temporary one, because those units don’t come back into the market, hurting families more.

Programs at both the state and local level exist for rental assistance. The mechanisms are in place, the checks and balances are in place, there just needs to be adequate funding. For small-government conservatives who might disagree with this approach, I would point out that family values start at the home. The family breakdown without a home, history has shown, leads to all the other big issues in society: drug abuse, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and child welfare issues. In an unknown world of a global pandemic, people are more fragile than ever.

Our association houses 40 percent of the Portland metro population and our members take pride in our contribution to the community. We provide housing – the most important necessity to a successful life. Whether you rent or own, a home is the vital element to a family’s survival. The average net worth of a homeowner is $200,000, while the average net worth of a renter is $5,000. Renters need a backstop from going backward on a legal commitment they made for their place to live. Without it, all of Oregon could suffer.

— This article provided by Oregon Transformation Newsletter,

— Dan Mason is a community manager with MG Properties, overseeing a 566-unit community in Beaverton, Oregon. Dan serves as president of the Multifamily NW board. He also currently serves as vice chair of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, a role appointed by the governor.