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  • People wait in line at annual back to school giveaway of items for more than 4,000 homeless and underprivileged children in Los Angeles, California, 2015.

    People wait in line at annual back to school giveaway of items for more than 4,000 homeless and underprivileged children in Los Angeles, California, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 February 2019

The state is poised to become the first to pass a statewide rent control law in the country if the legislation passes the state's House of Representatives.

The Oregon State Senate in the United States voted 17-11 in favor of a bill that would cap annual rent increases and ban no-cause evictions for tenants who've lived in a house or apartment for at least a year.

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Senators mostly voted along party lines on the Democrat-sponsored bill. However, Senator Betsy Johnson, a staunchly moderate Democrat, voted against it.

Senate Bill 608 places more restrictions on landlords and asserts tenant rights amid a statewide housing crisis, with the measure restricting landlords from terminating a tenancy without reason or within 90 days of notice, and from imposing large rent increases.

Senator Shemia Fagan, representing East Portland, presented the bill on the state Senate floor with a story of her mother's struggle with homelessness.

"Senate Bill 608 is personal for me. Families all across our state, like mine, are living in a housing emergency," said Fagan, who won an upset in the midterm elections in November against incumbent Senator, and landlord, Rod Monroe. She had campaigned to improve home renter rights.

Fagan added that the bill will impact the "hundreds of thousands of families that are one rent spike or no-cause eviction away from putting their kids to bed in the back of a car or pitching a tent on the side of the interstate."

Oregon ranks first in the U.S. for the rate of homeless children and youth and 10th in foster care placement by percentage, according to a WalletHub report.

"The stability of an ordinary life shouldn't be that hard," Fagan said. "The basics shouldn't be that hard. But for many so Oregonians, basic stability is out of reach," Fagan said.

SB 608 is set for a vote in the Oregon House of Representatives, where it's expected to pass. Governor Kate Brown has already signaled her support of the bill, local media outlet Portland Mercury reported.​​​​​​​

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