Oregon bill would pave the way for rent control

EAGLE POINT — Rent control isn't a popular concept among state legislators — whether Democrat, Republican or independent — Peter Ferris concedes.

Yet the executive director of Oregon Manufactured Homeowners United believes a bill that would pave the way for rent control is finding traction in Salem.

Ferris is the driving force behind the bill in the Oregon House that's backed by state Reps. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, and Chris Edwards, D-Eugene.

He told a gathering of Rogue Valley manufactured-home residents Saturday at Butte Crest Park in Eagle Point that growing corporate ownership has driven up rents at an increasing rate, and it is time to level the playing field.

"They do as little as possible to maintain our communities, and provide us with little customer service," Ferris said.

The bill, HB 3196, would limit a landlord's ability to increase rents and institutes binding arbitration when landlords and renters have disputes. While allowing landlords to raise rent for capital improvements, the bill would force them to reduce rents once improvements are paid off. Currently, landlords may raise rents without any limit with a 90-day notice.

"Unless parks are totally mismanaged, these parks are total cash cows," Ferris said. "What has caught up to them is greed. When we're given the alternatives to leave or pay higher rents, we mostly pay."

As an example of escalating prices, he cited Washington and Clackamas counties, where rented space is as much as $700 monthly.

Ferris hopes to build a coalition of 500 dues-paying park residents by June. He anticipates filling "one or two bus loads" of Southern Oregon park residents to testify at legislative hearings in mid-April.

"This is show-and-tell time," Ferris said. "We have to educate (the legislative committee) about the conditions in the parks. This will be the most dramatic bill passed this year. One of the problems is they don't want to hear 'rent control,' but how do you get around it? That's what it is. They look for euphemistic terms, something more pleasant. The bill is about the property rights of both landlords and homeowners."

Moe and Nancy Miller, resident managers of Bear Lake Mobile Estates, said Saturday's presentation bordered on scare tactics. They disputed an example given by bill supporters that unbundling water, garbage and sewer charges from space rents was merely a guise to raise rates. Residents who use substantially more water have to bear the responsibility, Nancy Miller said.

She also noted that rental agreements include mediation for disputes. She said problems occurring in the northern part of the state are not necessarily representative of what's happening in Southern Oregon.

"When there are problems in Portland, the next thing you know people down here are scared," Miller said.

Former Phoenix City Council member Murray LaHue, a resident of Bear Lake Mobile Estates, said experience has shown him that rent control can lead to retribution by owners.

"I'm not totally for or against it," LaHue said during the meeting. "But I'm leaning toward it."

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