Rent Control is Racist Public Policy in Portland Oregon by Fred Stewart

The Portland City Council recently decided to impose rent control on the city of Portland. The city council members are going to use the next several months to craft a permanent rent control ordinance. This new ordinance, which is likely not constitutional,  will put a cap on rents in Portland Oregon and force landlords to pay for the moving costs for renters if they are given a No Cause Eviction, which in many cases will be extremely expensive and not fair to land owners.

What this also means is there will be higher increases in rental prices at the turnover of rental units. It also means higher fees to obtain rental properties and fewer rentals available. Investors are not going to develop more rental housing at a level that will keep up demand and rent control does nothing to decrease demand or address those important issues.

This means there will be a huge negative impact on the working poor. The hardest hit with these new changes will be the Black and Hispanic families currently residing in Portland. This will eventually lead to the City of Portland seeing an increase in the pace of which the non-white population of Portland, blacks and Hispanics, continue to move out of Portland; a kind of Black and Hispanic “flight” if you will because they won’t be able to afford the newer higher rental costs. This will occur not because of blatantly racist landlords and not because of any community effort to evict non-white folks from out of Portland. This will occur as a result of simply math. There are approximately 330,000 white people who rent or are looking for rental units in the city of Portland. Compare that to the only about 20,000 black people who rent or are looking for rental units in Portland.

This means that 1 in every 13 people in Portland is looking for a home to live in who are not white. Eventually what the consequence will be is it will be less and less likely that black people will have their applications approved for rental units in which to live. Not because of overt racism from the property owners but because the odds are stacked against the population in general. It is simple math, but it is also racist; a form of covert racism.

This racist public policy is the result of all white city council members who simply don’t care to make the equitable changes necessary that will be beneficial to people of color. To me, this means hard working black and Hispanic people who rent and voted for a liberal city council in Portland, did not vote for their best interests; though no fault of their own but simply because this is a very hard to understand issue and most people don’t “get” it.

The biggest issue in this is that the city of Portland has failed to develop more public housing. They have priced affordable housing out of the private sector with their massive fees and long turnaround times for permits and planned approvals. Had these policy makers not made it so difficult for private sector developers to create needed housing we would see more housing, and thus a wider range of affordable housing. And the market would have protected non-whites from being priced out, forcing them to move farther east or out of Portland entirely.

Metro has failed the black population because they should have stepped in and warned the city of this possible result by lagging in the development of needed housing in Portland. Metro should also have been willing to extend the urban growth boundary when they noticed the population was growing faster than projected.

So, now that we have a bonafide rental crisis, the only tool the city council has chosen to use is the tool that historically has caused lower-middle-class people, the poor and minorities to move out of the rent control market. This is racist public policy and unfair to people of color.

Too many people in Portland don’t understand the ramifications of rent control as well as I do, because they don’t have my history as a real estate broker.

If this unconstitutional rent control change occurs in Portland Oregon, it will result in Portland becoming an even whiter city than it already is. It will push out huge numbers of black Portlanders who have lived here for decades.

Approving rent control could one day be deemed the most deliberate act of unjustly evicting black people from Portland Oregon since 1946, if not in the history of Portland itself.