PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The City Council in Portland, Oregon, has approved funding for a pilot program to divert a small number of tenants and landlords from going to court over eviction filings.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the council’s money, approved Wednesday, will pay for a mediator and, in some cases, provide rent assistance.
The Council unanimously approved a $150,000 contract to Portland-based nonprofit Resolutions Northwest to provide free mediation services for landlords and tenants locked in disputes that might traditionally lead to eviction filings. The vote comes a few months before an anticipated flood of evictions this summer, when the state’s COVID-19 eviction moratorium expires.
During its pilot phase, the landlord-tenant mediation program would provide somewhere between 70 and 100 mediations for Portlanders at risk of losing their housing, according to city documents. Resolutions Northwest estimates 70% of these mediations will be successful, according to Christina Dirks, the policy and program coordinator for the Portland’s housing bureau.
The program would also make $70,000 available for financial assistance as part of mediation. Most of these payments would likely be for back rent, but could be used for any payments agreed to by both parties during mediation, including missed utility payments or property damage.
During a Council meeting Wednesday, Commissioner Dan Ryan, who oversees the city’s housing bureau, said the program was “urgently needed” by both renters and landlords.
But Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty sounded a note of caution about the impact the small pilot could have, calling a hundred mediations “a drop in the bucket” compared to the thousands of people who would soon be headed to court when the moratorium expired.