Keeping in touch: Notes from the Mayor

Mayor Lucy VinisThis blog aims to nurture our conversation and understanding of the issues before us. Every week, I will provide a weekly update on the activities in the city government, my activities as mayor, and brief reflections on progress, opportunities and challenges. You are invited to respond with reactions, insights and questions. We do this work together.

View All Posts

Jun 30

June 30, 2023

Posted on June 30, 2023 at 1:51 PM by Cherish Bradshaw

Two issues dominated the week: passing the budget on Monday night; and digging into the second phase of potential protections for renters.

The budget passed as recommended by the budget committee with two additions: a one-time shift of unspent funds from the Community Safety Payroll Tax Fund to support prevention and youth-related programming in the library; and $50,000 of road funds to install traffic-calming infrastructure on Holly Avenue in NE Eugene.  The first was in response to public testimony about budget cuts to the library, particularly youth programming.  In the second case, Councilors Clark and Yeh are concerned about the increasing hazard of speeding cars using Holly as a short cut, endangering school kids on a road without sidewalks.  This motion moved Holly up to the top of the list of 18 streets awaiting safety improvements.  Most of the remaining streets will benefit from the renewal of the road bond funds to support needed improvements.

Council work sessions on both Monday evening and Wednesday were fully devoted to the second phase of Renter Protections.  As I wrote last week, the first set of code changes up for discussion were administrative and programmatic and did not elicit much comment or need for change.   They were readily moved forward into the new draft.

Four remaining sections of the draft ordinance include:1) five triggering actions that would require a landlord to pay relocation assistance to a tenant; 2) determination of the amount of relocation assistance the landlord would be required to pay; 3) the creation of a small landlord compensation fund; and 4) twelve possible exemptions that would remove the requirement for a landlord to pay relocation assistance.

At Monday’s work session, Council devoted most of their time to the first two.  They retained all of the triggers included in the draft: a) no cause eviction, b) rent increase, c) landlord reasons including demolition, renovation, family member moving in, or selling the unit, d) non-renewal of a fixed-term lease, and e) a substantial change in the lease.

In a subsequent action, Council amended the draft rent increase trigger from 5 percent to align with new state law that caps rent increases at 7 percent plus CPI or 10 percent, whichever is less.

Council also reduced the amount of relocation payment from “not less than three times the Fair Market Rate,” to two months rent, as simpler to understand and anticipate for both landlord and tenant. Two months was chosen rather the three months as written in the draft because it parallels the two months upfront deposit required of renters to move in.

At Wednesday’s session, Councilors considered whether to remove some of the 12 exemptions that would remove a requirement for the landlord to pay relocation assistance. The first group of exemptions related to small landlords who are either renting a room, renting an Accessible Dwelling Unit on their property; or renting units of middle housing where the landlord also lives.  This was a long discussion, and ultimately all three remained as exemptions. Some councilors objected that this was too much protection for landlords who also benefit from an exemption in processing applications in the order received.  Presumably they have enough control over their choice of tenants that this additional exemption should be unnecessary.  Others argued that increased control of owner-occupied middle housing, in particular, will help make it more attractive to construct more of these more compact housing units.  I find myself in this second camp – eager to see a surge in middle housing creation to help us meet our need for more affordable options.

The next two exemptions are related to specific circumstances when a property owner might need to rent their primary residence for a short period of time, either because: a) they are moving temporarily for any reason for up to three years and intend to move back, or b) they have been called to active military duty.  Council retained the first exemption but ran out of time to address the second.

We will return to finish the last set of possible amendments to the draft in a virtual work session on July 12th.

In closing, I hope you are anticipating a joyful and relaxing Fourth of July.  Remember: the fireworks ban is city wide.  Information about the ban and how to report violations is on the City’s website: News • Eugene, OR • CivicEngage (eugene-or.gov)

I will be at Spencer Butte Middle School at 7:30 am to welcome runners and walkers to the Butte to Butte and Mayor’s Fitness Walk.  It is not too late register and it is lots of fun.  See you there---