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Coffee forum at Cafe Delirium focuses on rent control and problem landlords with Lori Stegmann.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann met with her constituents at downtown Gresham's Cafe Delirium to discuss housing.Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann visited Gresham for a coffee hour with her constituents Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 28, at Café Delirium in downtown Gresham. The event was focused on listening to what their thoughts were on the housing crises, and potential solutions that could be explored.

"I am here because I consider myself a public servant, and it's important to hear from my constituents," Stegmann said. "Café Delirium is one of the hubs of our community, I am here to listen."

For most of the event at the 308 N. Main Avenue cafe, Stegmann listened to what everyone thought about the issues, and asked questions. Café Delirium provided coffee drinks for $2 off.

Because of soaring population growth across the region, the constituents stressed the need for flexible ideas and strategies. They felt that housing projects and other plans seemed to be getting bogged down by unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy. They suggested finding ways to accelerate housing projects to get needed development in place sooner.

Stegmann brought up the idea of Gresham's Rental Inspection Program. From her standpoint, the state of rental units in Gresham is much better than Portland.

"If you are someone afraid to speak up because your landlord may raise rent or evict, you will put up with unsafe and unsanitary conditions," she said. "We need to create a region-wide standard. We aren't trying to attack landlords, we just want safe and clean housing."

Concerns about the prices of housing was also brought up, and the idea that implementing a rental inspection program in Portland would funnel costs to the renters the government is trying to protect.

The role the real estate industry can take in all of this also was discussed, with the consensus being that landlords need to do a better job of stating their opinions and having their voices heard. One of the constituents who attended the event works in real estate, and said management needs to do a better job of joining in the politics.

An example is the problem of no-cause evictions, which other tenants sometimes ask for. A person renting a unit may not be breaking any laws, but will be such a problem neighbor that others seek out any means to remove them from the property. This can place landowners, as the discussion revealed, with no other recourse than eviction.

"Sometimes we expect landlords to be social service workers," Stegmann noted.

Rent control was also supported by those at the event, though they mentioned focusing it more on problem landlords as it could hurt those trying to do the right thing. Also, if rent control was implemented the constituents thought many property owners would attempt to hike rents before it went into effect.

"We have made huge investments in emergency housing, but it's time to focus on long-term, permanent solutions," Stegmann said.

Stegmann plans on continuing to have community meetings to hear what people think about the various problems East Multnomah County is facing.

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