My name is Ron Garcia. I am a rental property owner – I bought my first duplex in 1980 when I was 26 years old. My wife and I own a property management company in Portland called The Garcia Group – we represent about 230 owners with about 550 residential units.

I am also the current President of The Rental Housing Alliance Oregon with nearly 2000 members of which, 80% own 10 units or less.

We are the people who for years have spent our free time after work and on weekends working on our rental properties to get them ready for the next tenant. We are the Blazer fans and Timbers fans and Beavers and Ducks (and even Cougar fans) who listen to the games every night and on weekends – while we’re on a ladder painting ceilings, on our back fixing P-traps, on our knees cleaning ovens – while having our sons and daughters and spouses toting buckets of paint and cleaning supplies and hanging blinds and mowing lawns and ripping out blackberries.. We listen to the games and have our tailgate parties on sawhorses in the living room with space heaters, plywood and 5 gallon buckets for seats.

We’re the folks who have, quite literally, bought into to the American Dream of property ownership with our disciplined credit ratings and savings accounts, in order to build what is commonly known as “sweat equity”. We have always felt great about our plan because we believe that we provide the worthy product of a rental home; we create safe and affordable living environments where people can live; and at the same time – because we hope and pray that our properties will appreciate in value – we will not have to rely on the government or other people or programs to provide for our future well being.

We are hard working tax payers, and we have always looked at ourselves as part of the solution, not part of the problem.

I came here to oppose the legislation being considered today not only because of the hardship it would create for Rental Housing Providers like me and those whom I represent, but even more importantly because of the harm it does for both property owners and tenants…

There is a quote from a Taylor Swift song that says “It’s hard to fight a fight that ain’t fair”.  Yet as I considered what to say today, I realized that maybe the biggest problem we have right now is that we are in a fight at all. Vacant properties do nothing but become derelict without occupants. Tenants without a roof over their heads are homeless. Renters and landlords need each other in every way… yet –

Small landlords are now being villanized in the press; labeled as “white racists” who don’t abide by fair housing laws and resort to retaliation tactics of no cause terminations to get rid of tenants who’ve done nothing wrong except to complain about mold or lack of heat.  This is bogus.  It is no truer than labeling all tenants as irresponsible deadbeats who trash their units, or all homeless families as criminal druggies.

While the state of Oregon celebrates every time a company like Facebook or Intel brings in new jobs and we relish in fact that we are the fastest growing state in America due to our incredible vitality and natural resources – Landlords have suddenly become identified as the cause of homelessness, and are being required to subsidize a housing crisis brought on by the very social prosperity we have worked all of our lives hoping to bring about and to one day be a part of..

May I respectfully ask this panel assembled here today that, knowing that you have spent your careers fighting for legitimate social causes which you strongly believe in, would you still think it “fair” if you were suddenly required to cap your personal retirement income plus write a check for say, $4,000 a year, and then be forced to give all of those personal profits to the very organizations you have helped support, even at the expense of your own families’ personal well being?

I think you’d suddenly be on the defensive, and wonder why you got “called out” as a cause and then ordered to sacrifice to the same institution you have long worked for and supported.

If landlords and tenants – or “housing providers and renters” – really want to regain a serious dialogue to attack the issues being addressed here today – we need to get back to the table. But that can’t be done while we are being held hostage with threatening legislation. Let’s stop, look and listen for solutions to supplying new housing and making our state user-ready for the great prosperity we are enjoying!

Last session you succeeded in giving Oregon communities the right to create Inclusionary Zoning that would require developers of new housing stock to set aside percentages for affordable housing. What if that same type of agenda could be used to encourage (or mandate) communities to create “emergency review committees” to oversee and reconsider city zoning, code and planning bureaus in order to on-board literally thousands of housing units already in existence?  I am talking about the thousands of property owners who would gladly convert their daylight basement home, granny quarters, in-law units, garage apartments or add on an ADU but can’t get through the long and expensive and prohibitive processes imposed by the cities and counties.

In closing I submit that if we need emergency action to solve a critical social problems, we need to look for our civic leaders to step out and step up  – instead of levying prohibitive fines and labeling them fancy names like “stabilization efforts” on the people best suited to help the cause and  that, as testimony here today shall bear out, will thwart the very efforts they propose to resolve.