PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Tenants in affordable apartments in North Portland came to KOIN 6 News after they say their landlord increased rent by nearly 50% in some cases.
City officials, like Housing Commissioner Dan Ryan, admit this scenario these tenants are in is the perfect storm with the city’s (MULTE) affordable rent program expiring soon, COVID assistance waning and the state decision to now allow landlord’s a 14.6% maximum rent increase.
However, even the 14.6% rent control max he referenced doesn’t apply to or protect low-income tenants apart of the city’s MULTE Program. The residents that KOIN 6 News talked to said their landlords are raising their rents by well over the maximum, adding up to hundreds of dollars.
Kelsey Schreiner is raising her 4-year-old daughter in a one-bedroom apartment in North Portland while going to school full time to become a psychologist.
“What am I going to do or how am I going to potentially pay for this?” Schreiner said.
Schreiner has been able to afford rent at The Prescott apartments because the property was part of the city’s program where the landlord gets a tax exemption for offering some of their rooms to low-income tenants at affordable rates.
But Green Cities Company recently issued Schreiner and around 30 other low-income tenants a notice saying they are raising the rent in 90 days.
In Schreiner’s case, it’s going up by $403.
“Nobody can believe this is legal and this was able to happen the way that this program was managed and put together was wrong and it failed us,” Schreiner said.
However, the nearly 50% rent hike is within the legal limit because the city’s MULTE tax exemption program allows landlords throughout the city with buildings less than 15-years-old to raise rent above the maximum allowed: if they give 90 days notice and agree to pay to help relocate tenants.
But the relocation assistance they offer is only a matter of a few thousand dollars. The struggling tenants said, that’s not enough to pay first and last months rent, security deposits, application fees and moving costs.
Tenant Shela Cecchini’s studio rate is going up nearly $200.
“And then from there, I’m thinking in my head, ‘where am I going to find a place that isn’t still as expensive, if not more?’ And many of the programs that do still exist within the city that are somewhat affordable for us, they have waiting lists that are months and years long,” Cecchini said. “We don’t have that kind of time. We have three months, and we feel that ticking clock over our heads constantly trying to figure out what’s going to happen.”
Cecchini told KOIN 6 News she already spends half of her monthly income on rent.
“Suddenly, it’s like that little bit of security that I was slowly but surely building for myself was ripped out from underneath me,” she said.
These tenants have officially formed a union to fight for better policies. They said it’s concerning that Green City Company kept all the low-income tenants on month-to-month leases for over the past year – only to issue 90-day notices of a drastic rent hike all at once.
“They’re the ones making us homeless,” Cecchini said. “You’re creating the problem that you’re crying about. I don’t have any sympathy for you.”
“Changes need to be made to protect us like people and low-income families,” Schreiner added. “It’s not even affordable anymore.”
KOIN 6 News contacted Housing Commissioner Dan Ryan, who said “anything and everything is on the table when it comes to anti-displacement strategies, and I am committed to keeping Portlanders housed while making housing providers whole.”
Ryan added “This confluence of events—MULTE expirations, COVID protections waning, and the state legislature’s recent decision to allow a 14.6% increase in rents—is a concerning storm. For anyone impacted by the 14.6% increase, know that Relocation Assistance still applies in the City of Portland for a rent increase of 10% or more. If your housing provider increases rent 10% or more in Portland, you are entitled to Relocation Assistance. My team will share additional information regarding this issue and our comprehensive eviction-prevention efforts as soon as possible, and we ask for the Prescott residents’ patience as we identify immediate solutions.”
KOIN 6 News reached out to Green City Company but have not heard back.