After Milepost 5, an artists' community and affordable housing complex, sold last year, it became the site of an extended tenants union effort to improve conditions.
Earlier this month, those efforts paid off in dramatic form.
The affordable housing developer, Community Development Partners, the new owner of the property, agreed to fire its current property manager and reduce rents. The company announced the changes in a Dec. 5 letter to tenants.
"CDP is committed to moving as quickly as possible to resolve all issues and we have been working to the best of our ability to sort through the complexities that have arisen," writes Bradford Long, CDP's Director of Asset Management, adding the landlord would offer further concessions to tenants as warranted.
"CDP will continue to review all individual resident requests for rent concessions above and beyond the ½ month for reduced services," wrote Long. "Rent concessions will only be issued to residents who may have incurred expenses due to the change in relocation schedules or other extenuating circumstances."
Tenant leaders say they successfully brought about change.
"Though it still leaves some questions unanswered and serious issues unaddressed, it is a profound victory that cannot be understated," says Margot Black, co-chair of Portland Tenants United.
The group at Milepost 5 is one of eight building-specific tenants unions organized or supported by the Portland Tenants United.
"Despite CDP trying to characterize MP5 as a unique property with unique problems as a justification for their actions, we know that it was the careful and powerful organizing of the Milepost 5 Tenants Association that got these results," Black adds.
Because the building continues to be under renovation, tenants have continued to live with unexpected circumstances including a ceiling collapse. As a result, they continue to seek compensation.
Evan Wellington, one of the tenant leaders, asked for a rent concession for the collapse of his ceiling onto his bed while he was lying in it.
He was told he would not receive concessions because the landlord had already planned to pay for him to stay at a hotel.
"The letter reflects our continued efforts to address tenant concerns and underscores our efforts to ensure long term affordability at Milepost 5 while also ensuring that the building best meets resident needs both current and future," Jessica Woodruff, CDP's director of development, tells WW.
"We evaluate individual tenant concerns in accordance with the law and best practices and continue to try and work with tenants in good faith to address issues that are brought to our attention."