PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Residents of Holgate Manor and other community members held a press conference Monday to voice their concerns about the apartments’ increased rents in hopes it will change the new owner’s mind.
A California developer — Fred Kleinbub — recently bought the property and has started to increase the rent. However, many of the tenants are immigrants and refugees who say they can’t afford the higher rent.
“I don’t have a place to go. I don’t have a house to go, and they’re trying to evict me,” tenant Anna Lengya said.
Ninety-one-year-old Lengya, who’s lived at Holgate Manor for 25 years, lost her husband a few weeks ago and doesn’t have any children she can stay with. She said she used to pay $200 in rent and the rest was taken care of with government assistance.
The property, which is located in Southeast Portland, has a total of 82 units.
Prior to Kleinbub buying the apartments, Holgate Manor was owned and operated by the Newsom family for 40 years as a “naturally affordable” community for immigrants, refugees and low-income residents, according to Portland Tenants United.
Tenants received a letter Oct. 15 from the Newsom family to let them know that the soon-to-be owner “expressed his intention to keep things as they are at Holgate Manor.”
Shortly after, Kleinbub transitioned management to Princeton Property, who then contracted with Gallatin PR. By March 1, all tenants received a 5-page letter informing them that units needed to be remodeled and provided several move-out options for the tenants.
Portland Tenants United said many of the residents are elderly immigrants and refugees whose primary language is not English — so they didn’t understand their rights or what would happen if they didn’t choose a move-out option.
PTU said there are two main options for tenants: Take the couple thousand dollars being offered by property owners to leave or accept the rent increases and stay.
“The developer is trying to get people to self-evict and they’re trying to do it through a mixture of incentives, intimidation and misleading tenants,” Anthony Bencivengo, a volunteer with PTU, said.
As many as 18 units moved out by March 31.
The tenants hope that Monday’s press conference will make Kleinbub rethink his decision — and if not, they’re asking the City of Portland to buy the apartment complex and turn it into affordable housing.
Martha Calhoon, the PIO for the Portland Housing Bureau, released a statement saying they’re open to communicating with the owner to discuss terms for a sale of Holgate Manor.
Preventing displacement is a top priority for us in how we invest bond funds. We don’t know whether Holgate Manor is for sale at this point. We are open to communicating with the new owner to discuss what the terms of a sale might be as a starting point. All bond acquisitions are vetted through a formal review process and must meet the conditions outlines in the bond’s established Strategic Framework.”
In a statement late Monday afternoon to KOIN 6 News, Holgate Manor officials laid out their reasons for the price hikes. (That statement is below.) They also sent a second letter on Monday to residents offering a detailed explanation and translation assistance, if necessary.