We don’t object to asking people who already have homes to help less fortunate Oregonians find affordable housing.
But we don’t agree that it’s necessary, or justified, to more than triple a real estate document recording fee to try to accomplish that goal.
That is, however, the proposal from state Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, a Portland Democrat who is introducing a bill that would boost the recording fee, which is collected by county clerks, from $20 to $75.
The fee applies to documents such as deeds, mortgages and easements.
This isn’t a fee that most people are likely to have to pay frequently, of course. But on a countywide basis it’s not rare, either. Baker County Clerk Cindy Carpenter said her office, during the final three months of 2017, processed 1,101 records that are subject to the fee.
Most of the fee revenue — 76 percent — goes to Oregon’s Housing Account Program, which pays all or part of the cost of housing projects for low-income residents. The rest goes to other housing-related programs, and 25 percent of the total revenue must specifically benefit military veterans.
Keny-Guyer said she proposed the fee increase because federal money for housing programs has decreased over the past few decades, and Oregon has not made up the entire difference.
That’s a failure of both Congress and the state Legislature, yet Keny-Guyer’s bill would punish Oregonians rather than hold their elected officials accountable.
She noted that the recording fee is a reliable source of revenue, but of course it’s reliable only because it is mandated. The Legislature created the fee in 2009, and the initial amount was $15. That was increased to $20 in 2014.
That’s the kind of modest increase — 33 percent — that people can understand, if not enthusiastically endorse.
But raising a fee from $20 to $75 — a 275-percent increase — is far from modest. We urge the Legislature to significantly reduce the document recording fee in Keny-Guyer’s bill.