Portland’s Self-Inflicted Rental Housing Shortage

By Micah Perry

According to a revised report from economic consulting firm ECONorthwest, Portland lost 14% of its single family rental houses between 2017 and 2020. That’s a decline of more than 1,300 rental homes per year.

This steep drop shouldn’t come as a surprise given the policies enacted by the Portland City Council in recent years, which have made it increasingly difficult for landlords to operate their rentals.

In early 2017, Portland passed an ordinance requiring landlords to pay up to $4,500 in a tenant’s relocation costs if the landlord decides not to renew a lease or raises rent more than 10%. Two years later, the City Council limited a landlord’s ability to deny rental applicants based on their criminal record, income level, and credit history.

Some are likely to blame the drop in single family rental homes on a hot housing market. However, the City of Portland lost rental homes at twice the rate of the rest of the region, indicating that these policies have played a role in driving the shortage.

While these regulations were meant to help tenants, they have largely hurt them by making it even harder to find a place to live amid a limited supply of rental housing. The City Council should act on this new data and repeal these harmful policies before more damage is done.

Micah Perry is a Program Assistant for External Affairs at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Comments 2

  1. Avatar for Neil Gossman

    Neil Gossman

    9:19 pm - May 11, 2022

    I did not see you mention the $60.00 a year fee the City of Portland charges for each rental. This funds their department to regulate rentals in Portland. This department was started about 6 years ago. Seattle has a similar department but only charges $5.00 per rental. The rental market in Portland functioned fine for years without this department.
    I sold my rental house in Portland in 2020.

  2. Avatar for Glenn Gailis

    Glenn Gailis

    7:46 pm - May 12, 2022

    Portlands rules and approach to rentals as you point out is creating this crisis. These homes are being purchased by people with lots of money, cosmetically remodeled and then sold at very high prices that folks with limited incomes can’t afford. Another problem with Portland’s leadership.

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