A group of Portland tenants intend to ask city officials to save them from their California landlord's rent hikes.
Tenants at the Southeast Portland complex were recently offered as much as $5,200 by the new owner—as a voluntary payment to leave before likely rent hikes and some evictions. This week, WW examined how tenant protections passed by City Council—including a mandate to pay moving costs in many evictions—weren't enough to help tenants at Holgate Manor.
Now tenants are planning to ask the Portland Housing Bureau to approach the new owner, La Jolla-based philanthropist Fred Kleinbub, and attempt to buy the building with proceeds from the $258 million housing bond approved by voters in 2016.
In the meantime, the tenants at Holgate Manor are asking their landlord to halt all further notices of rent increases or possible no-cause evictions, translate their letters to tenants into multiple languages, allows displaced tenants to return and meet with them about their demands.
"We intend to make a request to the City of Portland and the Portland Housing Bureau, to use the Affordable Housing Bond to make an offer to Mr. Kleinbub to purchase Holgate Manor in order to preserve and make permanent this 'naturally affordable' housing community," reads a letter presented to the on-site property manager, Princeton Property Management, on Friday as part of an action by the renters' rights group Portland Tenants United and their newest affiliate, Holgate Manor Tenants Union.
The Portland Housing Bureau did not respond to a request for comment.
The complex, in the Southeast Portland neighborhood of Creston-Kenilworth, is the largest case of a building-wide push to get low-income residents to move out since the city passed its landmark tenant legislation last year.
Earlier this month, the city made permanent the requirement that most landlords pay moving costs for tenants who are given notices to move out without a cause or face a 10 percent rent increase.
In the case of Holgate Manor, the landlord offered moving costs plus an incentive to move out quickly, before any rent increases or evictions were posted.
Rent increases in Portland's housing market have hit low-income tenants hard.
Over the just past three years, 24,000 apartments that were affordable to low-income residents (including anything less expensive than a roughly $1,000-a-month two-bedroom apartment) have disappeared. That's enough housing for more than 1 in 10 of the low-income households in the metro area, according to the consulting firm EcoNorthwest.
The tenants' letter suggests they have reason for hope based on WW's reporting on the new property owner.
Fred Kleinbub, who runs the California real estate investment company that owns the property, has a reputation of charitable giving. Kleinbub is a donor to the arts and pledged $1 million to a center that cares for disabled adults.
They argue that should translate into doing good by these tenants.
"We were pleased to read about the philanthropy and values of the new owner Mr. Kleinbub, and trust that had he known about the existence and purpose of the housing bond, and the extreme vulnerability of the existing tenants, he'd agree that the city should have been the party to purchase Holgate Manor," the letter reads.
"We are hopeful that he'll accept such an offer to help us stay in our homes."
In previous decades, local minister Reuben Newsom had maintained the complex as a sanctuary for refugees who came to Portland from war torn countries or fleeing oppressive regimes.
Also unusual in this case: Princeton and the property owner hired Gallatin Public Affairs to handle written communication with the tenants.
Spokeswoman Felicia Heaton says the landlord received the letter.
"As mentioned in our letters and conversations with residents, we intend to make sure they have the resources they need to make good decisions," Heaton says.
"We're working hard to accommodate their personal needs and timelines."