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Special session: Oregon lawmakers pass rental assistance funding, extend eviction protections

In a special session, the Oregon Legislature voted on two bills: a spending bill, and one that would keep Oregonians waiting for rental assistance in their homes.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Legislature held a special session to vote on a number of bills, including one to prevent thousands of evictions in Oregon in the upcoming winter months.

One of the bills passed was Senate Bill 891, which extends the safe harbor period for tenants who have applied for rental assistance and also provides support for the rental assistance program. It was passed by the Oregon House and Senate.

“Since the start of this pandemic, our state has been committed to keeping Oregonians in their homes during this crisis by launching mortgage and rental assistance programs and enacting foreclosure and eviction protections,” said Senator Kayse Jama, chair of the Senate Housing Committee and a lead proponent of SB 891. “Today we passed SB 891 to prevent evictions of tenants who are waiting for assistance, as well as allowing more tenants to apply for assistance and ensuring landlords are fully paid.”

All safe harbors will expire on October 1, 2022, according to the new bill. 

Senate Bill 5561 was also passed, which is a budget reallocation bill that moves millions of dollars to help support the rental assistance program:

  • $100 million in additional emergency rental assistance to ensure low-income tenants have access to housing in the winter.
  • $100 million to support partnerships with existing programs as Oregon transitions from large-scale pandemic-related emergency rental assistance to long-term, locally-delivered eviction prevention services.
  • An additional $10 million to the Landlord Guarantee Fund to reimburse landlords for non-payment of rent and other fees incurred during the safe harbor period.
  • $5 million to speed up the delivery of federal funds

SB 5561 also allocates $18 million to support Afghan refugees. Oregon is preparing to take in 1,200 refugees in the next year and this money will help refugees with housing, education, legal aid, job training and culturally-specific support as they come to Oregon.

“I have been heartened these last few months to see support from Oregonians across the state willing to step up, offering what they can to respond to this humanitarian crisis” said Representative Khanh Pham. “We have a moral responsibility to provide safety and welcome our Afghan allies and families who are joining our communities”

This $18 million package was developed in collaboration with state agencies and community partners and includes $5.3 million to support the Department of Human Services’ emergency management unit, $3.7 million to bolster case management and community outreach, $6 million for housing assistance and $2.9 million for legal services, according to the Associated Press.

“This funding will not only prevent families from falling through the cracks as they begin the next chapter of their lives in Oregon, but will also be a strategic economic investment for our state. By welcoming Afghan families today, our state will benefit for many years to come” said Senator Kayse Jama.

Tucked into SB 5561 was also $2 million in funding for gun violence prevention in East Multnomah County. The money will go to help the City of Gresham and local community partners to create the East Metro Outreach, Prevention and Intervention (OPI) program which will address rising youth violence and improve public safety.

The program will invest in mentoring and culturally responsive youth programming

“These investments in our children are fundamental to their growth and development,” said Gresham Representative Ricki Ruiz. “By providing youth with the resources, education, treatment, and guidance they need to feel seen and supported, we are creating a better future.”

 A full breakdown of money allocated with SB 5561 was provided by the Office of the House Speaker, who said in an emailed statement:

“I called for this special session months ago because we had to honor our commitment to keep Oregonians housed during the pandemic. Today, we kept our promise and protected thousands from losing their homes this winter. We also sent much-needed relief to farmers and ranchers impacted by drought, heat, and wildfire. And we welcomed Afghan families seeking refuge in Oregon by approving funds to help them secure housing and meet basic needs. I’m appreciative of the bipartisan work that led to this successful emergency special session to provide relief for every part of the state.”

Housing Protections

Senate Bill 891 extends safe harbor protections to prevent evictions of Oregonians who have rental assistance on the way. Senate Bill 5561 includes a $215 million package to provide additional rental assistance, speed up the process of applications, and ensure landlords are fully paid.


Drought Relief

In response to the impact the recent heat dome, wildfire smoke and record drought have had on farming communities, Senate Bill 5561 includes a $100 million drought relief package to support farmers and irrigators across the state who have been impacted by drought, heat, or fire. Senate Bill 892 establishes a forgivable loan program to provide financial assistance for Oregon farmers and ranchers who lost gross income in 2021 due to a qualifying natural disaster.

Illegal Cannabis Enforcement

Senate Bill 5561 approves $25 million to prevent illegal operations and address the humanitarian crisis impacting workers at these sites. Senate Bill 893 expands the scope of the Illegal Marijuana Market Enforcement Grant program at the Criminal Justice Commission to include funding for community-based organizations to address the humanitarian crisis that workers are forced into with unlawful cultivation or distribution operations.


Afghan Refugee Support

Senate Bill 5561 includes $18 million to help Afghan refugees arriving in Oregon find housing, education, language and job training, and legal assistance.


Affordable Housing and Homeless Support

Senate Bill 5561 approved $1 million to each of the following cities: Albany, Ashland, Beaverton, Bend, Corvallis, Eugene, Grants Pass, Gresham, Hillsboro, Medford, Portland, Redmond, Salem, and Springfield. The $14 million total will address housing insecurity, lack of affordable housing, or homelessness over the next few months. The city of Portland will use its $1 million to work with local partners to establish RV parking sites.

Oregon Mass Timber Modular Housing Prototype 

Gun Violence Prevention

Senate Bill 5561 invests $2 million to assist the City of Gresham and local community partners in creating and implementing the East Metro Outreach, Prevention, and Intervention (OPI) program. The program will address rising youth violence and improve public safety outcomes in East Multnomah County by building community and investing in mentoring and culturally responsive youth programming.


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