Pilot Programme for Mediation Seeks to Stop the Rising Number of Evictions in Oregon

Pilot Programme for Mediation: According to data compiled by Portland State University, 2,141 eviction cases were filed in Oregon courts during the month of November. Since the year 2022 began, 16,788 applications have been submitted. One of the goals of a new pilot program is to reduce the number of cases that result in mandatory deportation.

Pilot Programme for Mediation Seeks to Stop the Rising Number of Evictions

Heather Wright, executive director of Neighbor to Neighbor, a group that won funds to operate a trial mediation program for tenants and landlords, said, “If people are creative and want to speak about it, there are lots of answers that aren’t textbook or check the box.”

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Legislators in Oregon set aside $1 million in federal pandemic aid in 2021 to use toward eviction prevention, which is how the program was able to get off the ground. The majority of the money went for rent subsidies, although some were also allocated to mediation pilot programs, research, and legal help.

“The work that we have seen so far is that mediation mixed with rental assistance is a pretty critical eviction prevention technique,” said Mike Savara, interim chief programs officer of Oregon Housing and Community Services. It’s the state government department in charge of providing housing and doling out grants.

Five Test Sites Across Oregon

The five test sites across Oregon will operate for a full year. One of the initiatives in Salem is called Neighbor to Neighbor, and it operates throughout the counties of Marion, Linn, and Benton. To better serve tenants and property owners, the programs collaborate with organizations that provide financial aid for housing.

Pilot Programme for Mediation Seeks to Stop the Rising Number of Evictions
Pilot Programme for Mediation Seeks to Stop the Rising Number of Evictions

Savara explains that “a landlord might require that rent be paid and have that talk with the mediator to really help think about what the answers are” in order for everyone involved to feel that their needs were met.

While definitive data is not yet available, Wright said the program has a decent success record, with around 75% of cases resolved after all stakeholders are brought to the table.

The biggest challenge, according to the head of the nonprofit’s housing program, is getting everyone on board with the process.

He stated, “Probably landlords are the most reluctant but not because they are opposed to mediation.” Instead, he explained, the main reason landlords are hesitant is because of problems involving tenants’ delayed responses. “A possible eviction is in the tenants’ future. They had heard of mediation and are eager to learn more about it; however, they are only doing so a day or two before their court date.”

He said they are trying to spread the word about the initiative to encourage property managers to get in touch. The belief that mediation is exclusively helpful for renters is also operating against them.

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There’s a presumption that landlords’ requirements won’t be met if preventative measures are taken, Wright said. She noted that in around 41% of cases, an agreed-upon move-out date is reached: “which takes the eviction off their record, helps individuals stay rentable, if you will, and helps the landlord remove the renter.”

She said that if the issue is settled out of court, it can save landlords money and reduce the cost to taxpayers as a result of fewer cases being filed in court.

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