By Midge Pierce
If the devil is in the details, as nearly 3000 legislative measures move through Salem, it’s understandable that lawmakers, many of whom have additional jobs elsewhere, find it tough to keep up or dig into specific bills. Still, citizens, outraged by “stealth” aspects of HB 2007 that impose mandatory density on all but the smallest Oregon cities are now seeking greater transparency and opportunities for input on proposed legislation.
A number of lesser known bills intended to help address the housing crisis have moved beyond the housing committee chaired by Southeast Portland’s state representative Alissa Keny-Guyer. Below is a partial description of bills that seem to have strong support:
HB 2004 would limit residential rent hikes to fair rates of return.
HB 2010 would create a task force to review racial and discriminatory lending practices.
HB 2433 would allow school districts to develop low income senior housing in exchange for classroom assistance.
Several bills address tax cuts for rehabilitation of apartments and homes.
HB 3192 establishes a $5 million fund to help first time, low income home buyers.
HB 2724 guarantees rent to landlords who take chances on high risk tenants with bad credit scores or criminal backgrounds.
The gist of these bills sound laudatory. But citizens who have witnessed the past several years of unfettered growth have learned that vigilance should go hand in hand with rubber stamping.
With housing solutions dividing residents, tensions can be cut with a knife during neighborhood gatherings.
Rifts rise between renters and NAs
At a Southeast Uplift Meeting to introduce Commissioner Chloe Eudaly to local grant recipients including a tenants rights group, a longtime renter broached dismay at feeling unwelcome at her own Neighborhood Association.
Eudaly spoke of the morale hazards of homeowner “Nimbys” and said she wants to delve into NAs to determine who has a voice and who doesn’t. She also said she would like to look at NA boundaries to give renters a fairer shake. “We’re using old school district boundary maps. It doesn’t make sense.”
The renter said she was reluctant to run for her NA chair because if she’s elected, then gets a rent increase, “I’m out of here”. Eudaly encouraged her to run, responding that it might cause enough stir that her landlord might reconsider raising her rent.
Fake new fails to halt historic progress
Just when you think the rift between preservationists and infill urbanistas can’t get any deeper, word comes of an attempted coup of the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association which has supported designation as a National Register Historic District.
An impeachment attempt of all board members during ENA’s May elections failed because it was not in compliance with state and city bylaws, according to longtime resident Rod Merrick. The attempt was made by HD opponents who Merrick predicts will continue to try to stop designation.
The slate of candidates to gain nine open seats were supported by pro-HD group Historic Eastmoreland Achieving Results Together (HEART). Founder Derek Blum says that new members are expected to continue pursuit of National Historic Register status.
The nomination is on track for designation despite what Merrick calls erroneous reports that the state had withdrawn its support. “It’s fake news. The state advisory council on historic preservation sent in all supporting documentation for the nomination pending a final count of objections.”
Merrick explains that the headcount confusion stems from the state’s abundance of caution in tallying property owners, some of whom are tied up in estates.
As of this writing, notarized objections had still fallen short of the percentage needed to stop the nomination. In addition, HD supporters call a much heralded but non-binding poll of homeowner objections inconclusive. (It did, however, cause high profile HD proponent Robert McCullough to vote against advancing the nomination in order to keep a community promise.) An ENA majority voted for nomination to proceed. (McCullough said he remains a fervent supporter of HDs as a “potent deterrent to demolition”).
While many outside looking in, seem to love to hate stately Eastmoreland, it’s hard to ignore it has historic and architectural significance for the City. And what happens in Eastmoreland will surely set a precedent for what happens in Laurelhurst and other neighborhoods with historic homes.
Eastmoreland resident and 1000 Friends of Oregon’s Mary Kyle McCurdy declined to comment for this article.