PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Management of a Portland apartment complex that became a lightning rod for the city’s housing issues is now taking a renter to trial. 

In the spring, Southeast Portland’s Holgate Manor issued notices to its tenants – many of whom are low-income, refugees, or non-English speakers – offering them money to relocate. Those who stayed later received rent increases. 

Holgate Manor had been sold to a California-based investor named Fred Kleinbub. Princeton Property Management took over the day-to-day operations. Gallatin Public Affairs, which speaks to the media on behalf of Holgate Manor, said in an April statement that rent increases were needed to make improvements, including a “new roof, interior updates, energy efficient windows, appliances and more.” 

But renters went on strike in August – refusing to pay rent – saying that critical issues were not being fixed in favor of cosmetic patches. 

“We refuse to pay while there are still rats and cockroaches in our apartment,” said Holgate resident Sara Brassfield in August. “We refuse to pay while mold is still making us sick. We refuse to pay while construction noise and debris has turned our community into a war zone.” 

Now, Holgate Manor and Brassfield are headed to trial. 

Brassfield, one of four remaining residents on strike, says she received notice in September that Princeton would seek to evict her over non-payment of rent. Court filings show that management filed a residential eviction complaint on October 1 against Brassfield. 

Jill Eiland, of Gallatin Public Affairs, said Princeton made Brassfield’s attorneys a settlement offer of three months’ worth of free rent today in court, where the two sides had their first hearing. That offer was rejected. 

A trial is now scheduled for October 26, though Eiland said in email that she expects it to be pushed further out due to the timing of discovery.  

Brassfield said she wasn’t willing to accept any settlement offers, because she is not just looking out for her own personal benefit. 

“It’s about the dignity in housing and long-term stability for the people who have lived here for 35 years,” Brassfield said. 

She said that she is seeking a sit-down meeting with Princeton and Portland Tenants United, which is helping to organize the renters and advocate on their behalf. 

Portland Tenants United organizer Margot Black said she feels Princeton’s actions constitute constructive eviction – an attempt to push renters out through failure to fix major habitability issues. 

She said she believes Princeton is trying to push long-term residents out of Holgate Manor to move in whiter, younger, wealthier tenants. 

“We’re literally watching gentrification in action,” Black said. 

Anna Lengya, 91, has lived at the Holgate Manor in Southeast Portland for 25 years but may have to move out because of a rent hike, April 2, 2018 (KOIN)

Eiland said that at the start of August, there were four residents who were not paying rent. Eviction actions were taken only against Brassfield, as Eiland said management was in talks with the other renters. One is moving out of the complex altogether, while the other two are transferring into other units at Holgate.  

Eiland said 11 residents did not pay rent on time in August, potentially as part of the renter strike. The property has 82 units.