2021 Legislative Session Recap: Addressing Homelessness & Protecting Renters

The 2021 Legislative session included a number of proposals to prevent and end homelessness for members of our community, and to provide protections to people who rent their homes. Read on for details on what was proposed and what passed this session.

Prevent and End Homelessness (HB 5011): Investments in the Emergency Housing Account (EHA) and the State Homelessness Assistance Program (SHAP). The Legislature committed $40 million to these two programs (current service level), and $27 million in one-time funds for emergency shelter through HB 5011, the budget bill for Oregon Housing and Community Services.

Long Term Rental Assistance (HB 3184): HB 3184 would fund a cost analysis study to assess the cost of providing a long-term rent assistance. The Legislature did not approve this bill, and it died in the Joint Ways & Means Committee.

Prevent evictions (SB 282 and SB 278):  SB 282 which creates a grace period for rent missed during the COVID emergency period (April 2020 – June 2021). Back rent can be paid (or rent assistance can pay) any time before February 28, 2022. In addition, the bill provides an opportunity for tenants to expunge any evictions that happened during COVID, allows people to double up, and provides additional protections from retaliatory evictions. SB 278 tries to address problems in delivering rent assistance by providing anyone who has applied for assistance with an additional 60 days prior to eviction from the date they notify their landlord.  The Legislature passed both bills.
You can read more information in English and Spanish about these protections, and learn about preventing eviction while you wait for rent assistance. Apply for rent assistance today.

Prevent and end homelessness for youth (HB 2163HB 2544): HB 2544 proposed to appropriate $4.2 million shelter and supportive services for runaway and unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness. The Legislature committed $3.6 million for this purpose.  HB 2163 will create a long term rent assistance pilot for youth experiencing homelessness. The Legislature appropriated $4.5 million for this purpose in HB 2163. Both bills passed.

Reduce criminalization of people experiencing homelessness (HB 3115): HB 3115 will reduce the criminalization for people experiencing homelessness by requiring cities to stop enforcement of illegal camping bans, and clarify where people experiencing homelessness can safely sleep. This bill passed.

Expand crisis alternative options (HB 2417): Originally, this bill was proposed to offer $10 million to expand crisis alternative models to police and law enforcement for homelessness and mental health concerns. HB 2417 was amended to begin preparing Oregon to implement 988 – a national mental health crisis line similar to 911 – in 2022. The amended bill, which passed, does include $10 million to support mobile crisis intervention teams.

Support people exiting the criminal justice system to access rental housing (SB 291): The Legislature passed SB 291 to help ensure that more people have access to rental housing. SB 291 asks landlords to conduct individualized assessments for people with criminal histories. This bill passed.

Creating a Task Force on Racial Disparities in Homelessness (HB 2100): HB 2100 makes statutory changes to define culturally responsive organization, and allows OHCS to define culturally specific organization in rule. HB 2100 also makes changes to broaden who can advise OHCS on agency policy. HB 2100 creates a task force on changes to funding structures and systems as it relates to racial disparities in addressing homelessness. This bill passed.
Create a universal rental application (HB 2427): Creates a universal rental application and allows tenants to provide their own screening report. This bill did not pass. We expect a workgroup in the interim, prior to the 2022 Session.

Expand access to information and referral (SB 5529): 211Info provides information and referral services. The Department of Human Services budget bill, which passed, included $3 million for 211Info.

Rent Guarantee Technical Fixes (HB 2101): The Rent Well Rent Guarantee program provides a guarantee to landlords who rent to Rent Well program graduates. Technical fixes were needed to expand eligibility. HB 2101 passed.
Reduce barriers to shelter siting and funding for shelters (HB 2006HB 5042):  Locating shelters for people experiencing homelessness in our communities is difficult due to neighborhood and NIMBY opposition, and can take years. HB 2006 temporarily removes barriers to siting shelters, requiring local governments to approve applications for emergency shelter (with some sideboards) until July 1, 2022. Funding for shelters and navigation centers was also included in HB 5042 and HB 5006, which both passed.

Other bills related to homelessness and tenant protections which passed this session:

  • Statewide reporting of deaths of people experiencing homelessness (SB 850).
  • Identification cards for people experiencing homelessness (HB 3026).
  • Changes to notice periods before removing camps of people experiencing homelessness (HB 3124).
  • Removing land use barriers to converting Project Turnkey motels into affordable housing (HB 3261).
  • Limits to the ability of local governments to create or enforce maximum occupancy limits (HB 2583).
  • HB 5011 included $1.2 million to invest in HMIS capacity and centralized management of HMIS.
  • HB 5011 included $2 million for technical assistance for shelter providers to develop shelters across the state.
  • HB 5011 included $3 million for sub-grantees to increase capacity to administer emergency rental assistance. This funding is for operational capacity to organizations who are providing outreach particularly to BIPOC renters, rural communities.
  • HB 2004 included an additional $9.7 million to Project Turnkey.
  • HB 5006 included $5 million for housing navigation services for domestic and sexual violence survivors, and $1 million for housing related legal assistance.