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February 2018
Last month at the January dinner meeting, RHA Oregon had former newscaster Kelley Day speak. Kelley has spent her career in front of the TV cameras and is a consummate professional. It was great to have her share her insights and experiences on how to present a story in its best light. These days that seems to be getting more difficult. 
There is a new rancor now being substituted for communication over the cures to Portland’s housing crisis. As rental property owners, it’s no longer enough to provide quality housing. We all need to learn to be better story tellers. 
Let’s start off with a couple of observations:
Portland is one of the world’s 10 most livable cities according to a recent list in Metropolis magazine. Portland ranks alongside with Helsinki, Copenhagen, Sydney and Singapore. Additionally, Oregon is one of the fastest growing states in America, and it recently ranked # 2 for in-bound
moving vans nationwide. 
There is no question that we need to come together to solve our housing needs. Yet - 
Landlords are stunned that the government would interfere with contractual clauses that allow for the simple termination of an agreement. They are outraged that their income could be arbitrarily capped with no regard to the free market, (no matter how low they’ve been voluntarily kept for years past). They are flabbergasted to learn they must pay thousands of dollars for Tenant relocations. 
Tenants are also in conflict. Those that live in comfortable and affordable homes may not want to rock the boat. Many live with the anxiety that their safe haven could all come to an end with a single notice. Others personally feel the hardships of the rising economy around them, and have been forced to find substitute housing; to become roommates; move to less desirable locations. For them, that rental property is the center of their life… it’s not “just a business that should earn a profit”. 
Meanwhile, however, tenant / landlord court cases are rife with accusations from both sides for unwonted damage and neglect left by the ravages and lack of care of that other party. 
So I ask myself: What’s a professional property owner to do? 
Without owners willing and able to invest in properties we have no inventory. And without tenants willing and able to pay market rents we have no incentive to build more housing. Has our industry devolved into nothing more than crisis management trying to ward off government
restrictions, collections and lawsuits? 
I often rely on basic rules to solve problems. One rule is what I call the “zipper theory of life”: When a zipper disconnects, the solution is to move the clasp back to the point of separation and start over. 
How far back do landlords and tenants need to go in order to re-group? 
Let’s consider the term “Landlord”, a title that itself is stuck in the past. Who wants to be “lorded” over by a profiteer? We should re-brand ourselves as “Rental Property Providers.” We should ensure that our properties are safe and comfortably livable. We should make an effort to consider the needs of our clientele – because without good renters our properties soon become derelict. 
Tenants ought to consider their obligations as well. Normal wear and tear shouldn’t be an excuse to allow mold to grow, grease to build up, yards to grow out of control or smoke detector batteries that save lives to expire. Good Tenants respect and thrive in their homes and value Good Property Owners. 
As I move the zipper back further in time, I found a connection from the oldest book in print, the Bible: “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another.” (Ephesians 4:31-32) 
Perhaps we can be encouraged with the fact that for thousands of years there has always been hope that people can overcome conflicts with decency and dignity in place of disrespect and drama. 
Those are the stories that should be really worth telling. 
Ron Garcia, RHA Oregon President