Oregon’s Legislature is full of men and women who know the state has a rental housing problem and who have promised to do what they can to improve the situation. Unfortunately, they’re badly off track.

Thursday members of the House Committee on Human Services and Housing split along party lines (5-4) to approve House Bill 2004, which bans no-fault evictions and gives cities and counties the right to impose rent controls. While both may sound good, there’s little evidence either will improve the situation.

One section of the bill eliminates a landlord’s right to evict a tenant without giving a reason for doing so.

Today a landlord can evict a tenant without cause, and there’s no blemish on the tenant’s rental record. An eviction for cause creates a blemish. That’s critical in a tight housing market, for landlords can afford to be choosy when selecting tenants.

Furthermore, while the measure does allow no-cause evictions in some instances, it makes them painful, for landlords would have to pay a month’s rent in relocation assistance. Meanwhile, tenants would be able to leave without cause and only 30 days’ notice, according to The Oregonians.

Also in the bill is a section that would give cities and counties the right to impose rent control. New construction would not be subject to rent controls for five years.

Cities and counties would be required to tailor their rent control policies so landlords could make “a fair rate of return.” Elected city or county officials would decide just what “fair” really is. Government should not be dictating what a business owner can make.

If the Legislature really wanted to improve the state’s woeful rental housing market, it could do so by making it easier to build new housing of all kinds. Unfortunately, that’s a solution that has received no serious attention.

— Wescom News Service (Bend Bulletin)