Eugene Tenant Alliance is a grassroots political action committee that represents and mobilizes tenants in Lane County, Oregon. Organizers with Eugene Tenant Alliance know firsthand the importance of programs and policies that keep renters stably housed: leaders of the group include voucher holders, LIHTC tenants, and people who have experienced no-cause evictions and homelessness.
The tenant alliance was launched as a Facebook group in February 2022, with the goal of pushing the Eugene City Council to pass 14 new consumer protections for renters. Within just months, Eugene Tenant Alliance successfully advocated for an initial phase of robust local tenant protections, including caps on application fees and landlord documentation requirements. Building on the momentum of these victories, tenant organizers are now working to achieve further protections for Eugene renters and at the statewide level.
“At the Eugene Tenant Alliance, we believe that tenant organizing is crucial for ensuring that renters have a voice in the decisions that affect their homes and communities. By coming together, tenants can
hold landlords and policymakers accountable, and work towards creating a more just and equitable housing system for all,” said Kevin Cronin, organizer with the Eugene Tenant Alliance. “The renter movement in Oregon is growing stronger every day, and we are seeing the impact of this organizing across the state. By working together and centering the voices of underrepresented communities, we
are making gains towards a more fair and affordable housing system. It’s time for renters to have a seat at the table and be recognized as a powerful force for change.”
When Eugene Tenant Alliance’s Facebook group first formed, organizers circulated a petition to cap rental application fees at $10. The petition gained traction, and organizers used the list of signers to build a stronger base of support in the ongoing campaign for tenant protections. Rental housing issues were already on Eugene City Council’s agenda; the Council held work sessions in November 2021 and March 2022 to deliberate on potential updates to the city’s rental housing code. Eugene Tenant Alliance worked quickly to engage its base and mobilize tenants to take action as councilmembers considered the issues that affect tenants most directly. Organizers recruited petition signers to share information, testify at City Council meetings, and organize 1:1 meetings with city councilmembers to advocate for robust tenant protections.
Eugene Tenant Alliance and their supporters on City Council faced significant opposition from the landlord lobby and Chamber of Commerce. One of the bill’s champions was recalled from City Council following her vote in support of the protections. Tenant organizers even faced retaliation for their advocacy: two organizers were evicted without cause after they testified at City Council, and landlords called organizers’ workplaces to demand that they be fired.
Despite this intense opposition, councilmembers approved a suite of tenant protections on a 6-2 vote in July 2022. The initial tenant protections package establishes a $10 cap on rental application fees, creates a rental housing navigator position and a tenant hotline in the city government, requires that landlords provide photo documentation of any lease violations to justify withholding security deposits, requires that landlords provide a tenant’s rental history even if they have not given notice that they plan to move out, and directs the city to create and disseminate educational information for landlords and tenants regarding the eviction process. Tenants in Eugene are already feeling the benefits of these protections: housing navigators report that the application fee cap has made the housing search process much more affordable and manageable.
The passage of these five protections is only the beginning of Eugene Tenant Alliance’s work. Eugene City Council adopted a three-part timeline for considering updates to the rental housing code, and plans to host a hearing on the second set of proposed policies in the near future. As City Council returns to the topic of tenant protections, Eugene Tenant Alliance will show up in full force and build the political will for the boldest possible package. In addition, tenant organizers in Eugene are working with the Stable Homes for Oregon Families coalition in the campaign for statewide tenant protections. The coalition is advocating for the legislature to pass the Stable Homes for Oregon Families Homelessness Prevention Package, which includes provisions related to rental assistance, eviction reform, reasonable rent limits, and rental market data.
For more information about Eugene Tenant Alliance, visit: https://www.eugenetenantalliance.com/