Portland Gears Up to Vote on Eviction Representation for All

Evictions Are Violence, eviction

Vote Yes on Measure 26-238 on May 17th to Prevent Wrongful Eviction

Too many people become homeless at the hands of a landlord who is banking on them not knowing their rights when it comes to evictions.

The prospect of losing your home is intimidating, and the sudden upheaval that follows an eviction notice is not the best time to try and start learning legalese.

The number one way that tenants get evicted is by self-eviction. This can result from not knowing their rights, becoming intimidated after a landlord’s eviction threat, or any other “creative” (meaning illegal) techniques that unscrupulous landlords use to get tenants to leave. 

Because of this lack of adequate education and experienced legal counsel, many people lose their homes without ever realizing they have the option to fight back. Housing advocates in Portland are looking to change that.

Eviction Representation for All

A new ballot measure has been introduced for Multnomah County residents to vote on that aims to provide Eviction Representation for All. 

The ERA program, also known as Measure 26-238, would ensure everyone can access high-quality legal representation to prevent families from being illegally evicted and forced out onto the streets. In its own words, the measure seeks to “establish free and universal legal representation for tenants in Multnomah County eviction court.”

Right now, only people who can afford to pay for a lawyer specialized in this field can access the representation required to fight unjust evictions

If passed, ERA would widen that protection and make the system fairer. It’s suitable for everyone – except the wealthy landlords – so naturally, it’s facing a lot of faceless opposition and misinformation.

How Will The Program Be Funded?

As with all social programs, the first thing the opposition wants to know is how much it will cost and how it will be funded. In this case, the ERA program can be fully funded by a simple 0.75% tax on capital gains. That amount would raise an estimated 12 to 15 million dollars to fund Eviction Representation for All.

If you’re not entirely sure what “capital gains” income is, it’s a result of selling an asset that increased in value during the time that you owned it. That’s typically something like a stock or real estate that is not your primary residence.

As you might expect, landlords and other wealthy people who make money simply because they have money don’t like this. But for the average person, this less than 1% tax shakes out to be a negligible amount that will only be incurred a few times during their lifetime, if at all.

If you have more questions or need further clarification, check out this informational guide from the group that drafted the ballot measure.

Why Do You Need A Lawyer Anyway?

If it sounds weird to you that a person would need legal representation in eviction court, rest assured that landlords are not stepping inside that courtroom without their lawyers. Tenants should be equally protected. 

Without an advocate on their side who is knowledgeable about the legalities of the eviction process, tenants are vulnerable to intimidation, tricks, and straight-up misinformation. Lawyers help their tenant clients know and assert their rights and can reduce eviction rates significantly.

If you’re interested in the numbers, statistics from before-pandemic-era moratoriums indicate that 90% of landlords have legal representation during eviction proceedings compared to only 10% of tenants.

Without representation, between 51 and 75 percent of tenants lost their cases and were evicted. In New York City, tenants that managed to secure legal representation could win their cases and stay in their homes 84% of the time.

The difference that skilled legal representation can make is enormous.

Fewer Evictions Mean Less Homelessness

NIMBYs are really in a bind with this one. On the one hand, editorials are telling them that a capital gains tax will reduce the profit they see on the sale of their primary residence (which is not true, by the way). On the other hand, the talking heads are telling them that the presence of unhoused people in their area will also bring their property value down (which is also not true).

Whatever is a good NIMBY who cares about nothing more than the hypothetical future selling price of their home to do?!

We know that more evictions mean more homelessness in a given era. It’s not rocket science to put two and two together and understand that kicking people out of their homes often results in them being homeless. In fact, it may be the most common outcome.

One study shows that between 25 and 62 percent of evictions result in the evicted parties having shelter needs, with a portion leading directly to unsheltered homelessness.

Over 5,000 evictions were filed in Multnomah County in 2019. Now that eviction moratoriums are lifting, we’re seeing that number rise again nationwide. How many more people will we see on the streets as a result?

Vote Yes on Measure 26-238

Eviction Representation for All is a powerful idea that can impact real people immediately and keep them safe and secure in their homes rather than dumping them onto the street with an illegal or immoral eviction.

If you are a resident of Multnomah County, vote Yes on Measure 26-238 when you fill out your ballot on May 17th. You can also get involved by talking with your neighbors, posting on social media, canvassing, fundraising, donating, or buying merch to support the cause. To learn more and get involved, visit the ERA website.

Many of those options are accessible to people who want to help, regardless of location. But you may also take inspiration from Portland’s efforts to push back against unethical landlords and connect with like-minded people in your area. You may even be lucky enough to live in a city that’s already introduced these protections. It’s a nationwide movement!

Kayla Robbins

Kayla Robbins


Kayla Robbins is a freelance writer who works with big-hearted brands and businesses. When she's not working, she enjoys knitting socks, rolling d20s, and binging episodes of The Great British Bake Off.

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