Alice Biggs was still living in her home when management removed the roof, showing inhumane lengths landlords are going to push vulnerable residents out
Alice Biggs knew she had 90 days to vacate her Portland, Oregon, apartment where she had lived for nearly a decade.
Along with her neighbors in the 18-unit North Portland complex, she received a 90-day no-cause eviction notice in June. The one thing she didnt expect was for the roof to be torn off while she was still living there.
It didnt have to go like this, the 55-year-old said.
Portlands real-estate market boom has been making headlines for months. The city of about 600,000 known for its progressive ethos is struggling with skyrocketing rents, low vacancy rates and constant pressure on the regions most vulnerable citizens to move further outside the citys limits.
We consider it like a gold rush, said Katrina Holland, the executive director of the Community Alliance of Tenants, a nonprofit working to change Oregons law to end the legality of no-cause evictions. A house is where you live, raise your children, take a shower, recover when youre sick, create a community To hear a landlord was so fixated on increasing rents or making renovations to increase rents to the point where people currently living there are told to vacate dont have a roof? Thats inhumane.
Biggs, who grew up in Portland, wasnt surprised when she received the eviction letter. She noticed inspectors surveying the building and had heard similar stories from friends in her community.
It happened to my brother. Hes 82. I knew it was coming, she said.
Her neighbors once marveled at how nicely decorated her apartment was. Now, wet sheets are draped over the windows, soggy towels cover the floor and all her clothes are packed in large moisture-laden boxes.
Shes ready to move. Theres only one problem.
Everybody is on a waiting list. Everybody is on a waiting list. Everybody is on a waiting list, she said.
The vacancy rate in Portland has always been relatively low, said Pam Phan, with Anti-Displacement PDX. Lately, its hovered around 3%. The city declared a housing emergency earlier this year.
The market is so hot right now, Phan said, adding theres effective displacement of residents across the city, but its consistently cut along racial lines.
Everyone in Portland has this ideal that we want to live in a progressive place, with walkability and biking, Phan said. But people of color and those that are poor dont have these things and are being pushed out. Its a form of segregation.
A complaint about the North Portland apartment complex where Biggs lives has spurred the city to investigate.
After seeing the two-story building, Megan Greenauer, a city inspector, ordered the work stopped immediately.
In her report she noted that the rain meant, The tenants are living in water-logged conditions and are having to mop their floors constantly and their belongings are being ruined.
Joe St Onge, with Capital Property Management Services, which is managing the property, said the old roof was leaking and the goal was to start replacing it before the weather changed. The work started two weeks before residents were scheduled to move out, first reported by the Willamette Week.
An elderly couple, Bill and Susan Fawcett, who live on the first floor of the apartment complex paid $625 a month for their one-bedroom apartment. Even when their door became so waterlogged they couldnt close it, they still paid their rent.
After the city and non-profits got involved, the tenants were given until 15 October to vacate. They will not be charged rent from the time the leaks were first documented.