Holgate Manor has been a sanctuary for immigrants, refugees, and low-income Portlanders for over 40 years. For the past five months, our community has been devastated by rent increases and displacement at the hands of the new landlord, California millionaire Fred Kleinbub.
Shortly after Kleinbub bought the building, he hired Princeton Property Management to enact his program of forcible gentrification. Princeton sent misleading letters to tenants (in English - a language the majority of us do not speak or read) announcing that an unknown number of apartments would be remodeled and implying many of us would have to move. It used confusing language to encourage us to self-evict, signing away our rights under Portland's Renter Relocation Assistance law.
Some of us signed temporary move-out deals (in English, which many tenants do not understand) after being told we could move back at affordable rents once remodels were done. In fact, the deals raised many of our rents, gave Princeton the right to deny us the right to move back, and if we did return Princeton could raise our rent by 20% a year from now without paying Relocation Assistance. Many of our neighbors had to move out permanently, and several were barred from returning after Princeton said they no longer met income requirements. Those of us who did return found our rents much higher, while our remodeled units still have cockroaches and mold.
The majority of us refused to sign these deals, forming the Holgate Manor Tenants Union to assert our rights and defend our community from displacement. We have enlisted community support via television, the newspaper, the City of Portland, neighborhood associations and city politicians.
We received no answer to our demands from Mr. Kleinbub. Instead, we all received 9.9% rent increases - enough of a budget hit to force many of us to move, yet none of us are eligible for Relocation Assistance. At the same time, we are enduring constant noisy and dangerous construction that has gone on over five months. Those of us who work irregular hours cannot sleep during the day, families are afraid our children will be hurt if they play outside, and our home feels like living in a war zone.
We will not break under these constructive eviction tactics. On August 1, we began a rent strike.
Until Princeton and Kleinbub meet the following demands, we will exercise our legal right to withhold rent:
1. Allow displaced tenants who wish to return to Holgate Manor to do so without submitting new applications, and at a rent that is affordable to them.
2. Retract the 9.9% rent increases until after the construction is complete, including a rent refund for the months construction was taking place, and commit to no new rent increases until negotiating with representatives from the Holgate Manor Tenants Union and Portland Tenants United.
3. No new fees or no-cause terminations to be issued until after negotiations. No 72-hour eviction notices or retaliation against striking tenants.
4. All communication from management should be professionally translated in the tenants’ native languages of Khmer, Spanish, Russian, Burmese, and Ukrainian. Google Translate is not an accurate translator.
5. Respond to property maintenance needs as required by law, especially the existing issues of pests and mold.
We deeply appreciate your support in our struggle to win dignified and affordable housing for our community. Please tell all your friends about our rent strike, sign our Change.org petition (https://www.change.org/p/mayor-ted-wheeler-help-holgate-manor-tenants-stay-in-our-homes), and get on our contact list by emailing [email redacted] or texting "HOLGATE" to 444999.
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