Marion County

Evictions for remodeling: 'Comes down to money'

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) -- The sudden uptick in real-estate development in north Salem is surprising, even to those whose work is closely tied to the housing market.

"We don't see this frequently, but it seems the pace is picking up of late," Jimmy Jones, ARCHES director, said. 

ARCHES helps to rehouse people on the verge of homelessness, by providing them with deposit and rental assistance. Recent evictions are keeping the agency busier than Jones would like it to be.

"Finding them opportunities to get new housing is very difficult," Jones said.

In early June, KOIN 6 News reported a low-income housing complex in north Salem had served all of the tenants in its 13-unit building 60-day eviction notices. The men and women living there -- some of whom were paying as little as $500 for rent and utilities -- said they were facing homelessness.

Weeks later, a complex just down the street, with 19 units, served 60-day eviction notices as well. The reason listed on both sets of notices: Remodeling.

Residents are quick to acknowledge there are problems with the properties. The renovation process driving them out of their units, however, is leaving many with few options.

Sharron Ardaiz, who just received an eviction notice, said she's been living in her unit with her elderly mother since April 2017. They pay $525 per month for an apartment she said has a broken stove and a problem with rats. Still, she said she'd rather live there than the alternative she was considering.

"Better than living on the streets," she said.

The new owners of the 13-unit complex, who live in California, agreed to answer questions over email, under the condition of anonymity. The owners said their plan was to remodel the units in order to create affordable housing that would pass the qualifications for Section 8 housing.

There has been no recorded change in ownership for the second complex where Ardaiz lives, though she and other current tenants say the owner told them he was in the process of selling the apartments. That owner, Larry Hoy, did not respond to KOIN 6 New's request for an interview on Tuesday.

The combination of two, low-income apartment complexes evicting residents in such a short time period presents a challenge for local organizations designed to help people avoid homelessness. 

"Any time you have an entire apartment complex or community looking [for units] at the same time, competing for the same places, it does make it difficult to get them rehoused quickly," Jones said. The city of Salem has a 2 percent vacancy rate, which makes it increasingly competitive for renters to get into units, and presents an opportunity for landlords to raise rents higher.

"Even a $100  or $200 increase is going to feel nearly insurmountable for some of them," Jones said. He added that it would be nearly impossible for them to find rentals for less than $600 in the current market.

Now, many tenants are facing a double-bind situation. If they pay the rent they owe before their move-out date, they say they won't be able to afford a deposit, or pay for moving expenses.

If they don't pay rent, however, they could be served with a 72-hour eviction notice, forcing them out at an even earlier date, with less preparation.

Jones said 25 percent of the people who are homeless in Salem have a recent eviction on their record. Having that mark, he said, makes it even more challenging for them to get into a new unit.

The increase in development is unusual, he said. And from his perspective, he hopes it doesn't continue.

"Our fear, always," he said, "is the pace of this sort of thing will accelerate."


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