PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The lack of protection for hundreds of affordable housing units has been apparent to the residents of the Prescott Apartments in North Portland for the past few weeks.
Recently, the landlord, Green Cities Company, sent the low-income tenants letters saying they’d subsidize the 50% rent increase for 90 days, but that tenants would have to sign the contract within three weeks. While that may sound nice, what it also does is allow the landlords to implement another rent increase in November of next year, which could be even more taxing on the certified low-income residents.
Massive loopholes in state laws and a lack of protections implemented in city ordinances for this specific MULTE program make it possible for landlords to raise rent prices to exorbitant rates, as long as they provide relocation assistance, which is roughly a few thousand dollars.
For example, while the state has capped rent increases to 14.6% – the limit doesn’t apply to buildings that are less than 15 years old, which is an attempt not to damper new housing construction. All the affordable units within the city’s MULTE program are in buildings less than 15 years old.
Mike Schreiner is a single dad trying his best to raise his 17-year-old daughter in a one-bedroom apartment. For the past five years, he’s been able to keep himself and his daughter housed by being in the city’s affordable housing program. However, after Green Cities Company recently became their landlord at the Prescott Apartment, he’s now anticipating a $400 rent increase.
“It’s greed, you know, is what it amounts to,” he said. “I’m on Social Security disability, so my income is limited and it’s not going up yearly the way everything else has with the inflation we’ve got, along with these potential rent increases. It’s just impossible to keep up.”
Schreiner also said that he hates the thought of his daughter potentially being homeless.
“I’m sure there are kids there who are homeless as well, but I don’t want her to be one of them. I just can’t imagine doing that to her. It’s hard for me to even wrap my mind around the fact that people are doing that to one another today in this economy,” he said.
After tenants hand-delivered a letter to Green Cities company last week, asking for more manageable rent increases, the Green Cities Company sent them a notice which gave them “additional time to assess their options.” But the struggling tenants say the landlords are just delaying the inevitable.
“They’re not the least bit concerned about putting me in a tent, no longer living in one of their buildings,” Schreiner said.
In an open letter addressed to the leaders of Portland City Council, the certified low-income tenants in affordable units in the Prescott Apartments are asking city leaders to intervene to protect them and others in this affordable housing program from 50% rent increases.
They ask the city council to cap rent increases on affordable units to 5%, provide clear notifications about the affordable housing program and more robust relocation plans.
Commissioner Rubio’s office told KOIN 6 News that it’s their understanding that Commissioner Ryan’s office is working with the Housing Bureau to explore all available options to prevent displacement of residents in this expiring affordable housing program.
Commissioner Ryan’s office issued the exact same statement from two weeks ago, saying in part: “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.”
Commissioner Hardesty’s said: “I want to thank the renters with the Prescott MULTE Tenants Union for reaching out to my office. I’m alarmed by this revelation that a supposed affordable housing unit is looking at a potential 50% rent increase. I’m calling for the Portland City Council to hold a work session as soon as possible so we can address this, as well as to prepare for potential rent hikes across Portland. We must work collectively as a City to do everything we can to prevent evictions so we are not further exasperating our houseless crisis. As the only renter on the Portland City Council, I understand the fear so many renters are facing right now and while I am not the Housing Commissioner, I will continue to be your advocate on the Portland City Council.”