When Portlanders voted to pass rent control in 2020, it contained a key provision often referred to as “vacancy control.” Vacancy control means that the rules capping how much rent can be raised apply not only for the current tenants, but also to the unit itself when it becomes vacant.

As Portland’s first rent board chair, I can say with some authority that vacancy control is an important aspect of rent stabilization. The alternative, “vacancy decontrol,” allows landlords to establish new rents without limit for new tenants. Put another way, it incentivizes landlords to aim for tenant turnover. Vacancy decontrol is at the heart of Question A on the June 13 ballot.

It will come as no surprise to the voters of Portland that we are experiencing a housing crisis. Searching for new rental properties can take months, and renters are frequently forced to move out of their communities, often at great and unexpected expense. As a homeowner, my housing costs are relatively stable, and my home is firmly established in my community. I think tenants deserve the same basic dignities.

Question A, which has been characterized as an attempt to “fix” rent control, is in fact little more than a well-funded attempt by organized landlords and property managers to pass a glaring loophole to rent control. I hope you’ll join me in voting “no” on Question A to preserve hard-won tenant protections.

Austin Sims

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