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  • Writer's pictureEugene Tenant

July 10, Housing Policy Board Recap

Housing Policy Board July 10, 2023

HPB seems to be looking at a possible large change sometime next year, possibly becoming just a Eugene advisory board instead of both city and county.

Because of that possibility the elected members, city councilor Emily Semple and county commissioner Heather Buch, have held off recruiting new members, and the board is below full membership.

City staff is busy with renter protections and doesn't have time to support HPB in an action mode. Renter protections, including phase 3, could take up to six months to resolve. The board spent a lot of time discussing whether they should stop meeting for some months or just have informational meetings. This was left unresolved, with the possibility of an email poll to decide.

Bernice Pogue, the only homeless person on the board, said the public needs a lot more information. She said renters are mad, don't feel represented by people in local government, which is “pushing people to the breaking point”, and are organizing.

During the public comment period ETA leader Kevin Cronin spoke in favor of adding a renter opportunity to purchase to renter protections phase 3.

John VanLandingham did a state legislative policy update. The state legislature adjourned on June 25, with the Senate passing a flood of legislation that had passed the House, then got held up by the Republican walkout in the Senate. He mentioned HB 2001 that changed eviction rules and SB 611 that lowered the cap on yearly renter increases.

He said that state Rep. Nancy Nathanson introduced a bill to cap rental application fees. The Eugene City Council passed a cap of 10 percent as part of renter protections phase 1, but a court ruled it conflicted with state law. The bill didn't pass but is likely to come up again in the 2024 short legislative session.

Semple announced that renter protections phase 2 will come up again at the City Council work session at 12:30 on Weds. July 12.

City staff said so far the council has approved a relocation assistance exemption for affordable housing. On Wednesday they will discuss exemptions 6, 7, 9 and ten, and the proposed fund to compensate small landlords if they're not exempted.

Commissioner Buch said the county and Eugene have formed a MAC group to decide how to spend housing funds from an executive order by the governor. She said they're in the process of spending applications and contracts, and expect to see some results in August. (If I understood all that. Stay tuned for more on MAC.)

Steve Adams, Lane County Policy Director, gave a long presentation on what the county is doing regarding housing. Too much to absorb it all, would prefer a written presentation. He said state housing planning is very “Portland centric” and Lane county is trying capture as much of state funding as possible locally.

I think Bernice Pogue is right that people are unhappy with what local government is doing or not doing about housing, and also that most of us have no idea what is happening. Local news media seldom cover city and county politics. Unless we watch their meetings, which takes too much time for most people, we don't know what is going on. Just posting a lot of words online doesn't do it. They just not communicating very well.

I suggest the city and county both hire journalists who know how to write in such a way that us common folk understand what they're talking about, instead of bureaucrat speak. Failing

that, we might consider hiring our own reporters.

I also suggest that Eugene city councilors and Lane county commissioners start publishing email newsletters for their constituents.

– Lynn Porter

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