Just over a month ago, affordable housing advocates applauded Portland City Council for passing a new, "emergency" policy that would require landlords pay tenants between $2,900 and $4,500 in moving expenses under certain circumstances. The policy, which applies to any tenant who receives a no-cause eviction or faces a rent hike of 10 percent or more, is meant to act as a buffer to keep tenants from slipping into homelessness after a rental shakeup.
But a recent apartment sale has tenants telling the city it's not enough.
"We refuse to be forced out of our homes so they can be rented at a higher price for a profit," said Sarah Brassfield, one of the many tenants at the Holgate Manor apartments at 36th and Holgate. Brassfield spoke at a Monday press conference organized by Portland Tenants United in front of the complex, where she asked the city to intervene in a decision that's sent ripples of discomfort and fear through Holgate Manor tenants.
As first reported by Willamette Week, residents at Holgate Manor received a letter earlier this month informing them that their complex has a new owner and renovations will require all tenants to move out—ASAP. With the letter, tenants were given $5,200 (nearly $1,000 more than required by the new city law) to relocate. Tenants from a reported 18 units have since taken the money and moved out, but many say they are unable to move—regardless of the financial boost.
"I don't have children and my husband passed away two weeks ago. This is my community. I have no means to move, I have no one to help me move," said Anna Landya, a elderly Ukranian immigrant. Many of Holgate Manor's tenants are immigrants or refugees, and some were unable to read the English-only eviction notice when it came in the mail.
According to Landya's translator at today's event, "she may not live through this move."
Brassfield read a list of demands for the property's new owner, Fred Kleinbub, including a moratorium on rent increases and the removal of "vermin, pests and mold." But the tenants' specific request was for Portland Housing Bureau to purchase the entire property with funds from the $258 million housing bond—a pot of money meant to protect low-income rentals for vulnerable tenants like Holgate Manor.
Apparently, the bureau wasn't aware of the apartment complex being up for sale, and only heard about it after the property was swooped up by Kleinbub. It appears the city would have otherwise been interested in purchasing the property. In an email statement to the Mercury, Portland Housing Bureau spokesperson Martha Calhoon said preventing displacement was the department's a "top priority" when dishing out bond money.
But, she adds, "We don’t know whether Holgate Manor is for sale at this point. We are open to communicating with the new owner to discuss what the terms of a sale might be as a starting point."
Update: Here's how Kleinbub's PR company responded to KOIN reporter Eileen Park