House Speaker Tina Kotek says she wants to see a legislative fast track for an extension of Oregon’s moratorium on residential foreclosures.

An overall moratorium ended on Dec. 31. House Bill 2009, which the House Business and Labor Committee heard last week, would be retroactive to Dec. 31 and extend the moratorium to Sept. 1. But the new version would apply only to a set number of residential properties — the bill proposes five, although an amendment would raise it to 10 — and commercial property would be excluded.

Kotek, a Portland Democrat, is a chief sponsor of the bill along with committee Chairman Paul Holvey, D-Eugene.

Kotek said lawmakers should have passed the extension during the Legislature’s third special session on Dec. 21, 2020. The original moratorium, first imposed by an executive order of Gov. Kate Brown, was passed in a special session on June 26, 2020.

“From my point of view, we should have done it during the third special session to extend it. It’s been well-worked,” Kotek told reporters during her weekly availability on Monday, March 8.

“We are pushing Chair Holvey to move it as soon as possible. It is something people need certainty on in terms of how their mortgage payments will be handled in the situation we are in right now. We need to keep people housed, so it is a priority.”

Kotek’s call coincided with near-final congressional action on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan, which includes $10 billion nationally for homeowner assistance.

Rep. Julie Fahey, D-Eugene, said she isn’t sure what Oregon’s share would be, although it is likely to exceed $100 million if it is distributed according to population. “That federal aid would be in addition to $30 million for homeowner assistance contained in a $500 million state plan unveiled Monday, March 8,” Fahey said.

Fahey sits on the Business and Labor Committee and also leads the Housing Committee.

The state bill would allow one extension by Brown to Dec. 31, through an executive order, but only if she gives notice by Aug. 16.

Banks and credit unions oppose or question the need for state legislation, given that 70% of Oregon mortgages already fall under a federal moratorium that is scheduled to end June 30.

But housing advocates in support of the bill mentioned the Household Pulse survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, which ranks Oregon 17th among the states in terms of people reporting they are behind on rent or mortgage payments and are at risk of eviction or foreclosure within two months.

Oregon’s 38.1% of 153,402 surveyed online put it below Idaho (15th) but ahead of Nevada (19th). California and Washington ranked lower. The margin of error is 12.4 points, which means that the actual ratio of people at risk could be as low as 1 of 4 — or as high as 1 in 2.

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