PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – When the Woodspring apartment complex was set to lose its affordable designation later this year, the senior citizens living there feared that they would have been priced out of their homes.

But Washington County has entered negotiations to buy the complex, saving dozens of tenants from homelessness in the process.

Washington County Board Chair Kathryn Harrington told KOIN 6 News in February that the county didn’t have the $46.6 million to buy the property. But then the state stepped in to fill the gap – much to the relief of the people who live there.

The people living at Woodspring had been fighting the county to protect their homes since February, when KOIN 6 covered the tenants’ protests.

The complex was set to lose its affordability protections at the end of the year, causing market-price rents to potentially price out many of the seniors who live in the 172 units.

They’ve been pleading with the county to do something. Last month, commissioners said they were out of options and lacked the money to buy the complex.

Margot Black, a tenant rights advocate, said “it’s a testament to the power of organizing.”

And Woodspring tenant Richard Calkin said fighting for housing was a matter of dignity.

“There is no way that people of our age living on fixed incomes should be having to face homelessness,” he said.

Tenants at Woodspring Apartments in Tigard celebrate the news they can stay in their affordable units, March 13, 2023 (KOIN)
Tenants at Woodspring Apartments in Tigard celebrate the news they can stay in their affordable units, March 13, 2023 (KOIN)

Behind the scenes, the county’s Housing Authority Director Komi Kavelor worked with Oregon Housing and Community Services on a loan to the county – for the cost of the complex that the affordable rents will not cover.

But Washington County Commissioner Roy Rogers says the county won’t be able to buy other properties as it did here.

“We’re not looking at this as being a norm,” he said. “This is a one-off, very unusual kind of a circumstance.”

Of the 12 remaining properties, 4 are owned by non-profits, so there’s a hope that those will remain affordable.

“I dread those that are coming up because we are going to have to make some very difficult decisions, it’s not going to be easy,” Rogers said. “We’re not going to have that funding in the future.”

These residents are hoping to fight for the other complexes and have begun throwing their support behind two bills in Salem right now.

House Bill 2754 would limit rent increases and lease terminations for senior residents if affordability protections expire.

Senate Bill 611 would increase what landlords owe renters if the landlord terminates the lease.

“We have many brothers and sisters in the state that need the same kind of help that we’ve received, and they need to get out and organize,” Calkin said.