Rent spikes in North Portland ‘affordable’ housing building, tenants say

Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 3:25 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Dozens of people living in a North Portland apartment building are facing massive rent increases, despite the fact that many of their apartments are considered affordable housing.

Kelsey Schreiner, a single mom who rents a 2-bedroom apartment in The Prescott, received a notice that her rent will be going up by $403 per month, an increase she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to afford.

“What am I going to do? Am I going to have to move out of state? Am I going to have to take my daughter out of school? Am I going to have to stop going to school?” said Schreiner.

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Although state law limits rent increases to no more than 10%, there’s an exception for properties built less than 15 years ago, which applies to The Prescott. And although Schreiner’s rent is protected by federal affordable housing standards, rent limits are determined by the area’s median income, which has increased dramatically over the last several years.

“The problem is as we get more income inequality, median incomes and even 60% of median incomes, what’s affordable at that rate is still not affordable to a large number of people,” said Leeor Schweitzer, an organizer with Portland Tenants United.

In Schreiner’s case, there’s also the potential her rent could increase even more because her apartment building is part of the City of Portland’s Multiple Unit Limited Tax Exemption (MULTE) Program. MULTE properties are exempt from property taxes for ten years if developers agree to make at least 20% of the apartments affordable. That affordability requirement expires after the 10-year period.

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According to the Portland Housing Bureau, there are close to 50 properties in the MULTE Program, and several are set to reach their expiration date in the next few years. Schreiner’s building will have its affordability requirement expire in 2024.

“And what that looks like, that looks like we get raised to market value with 90 days notice,” said Schreiner. “How is anybody going to be able to sustain then?”

Schweitzer thinks it’s time for state lawmakers to do something to ensure affordable housing is actually affordable for low-income tenants.

“If we want help out people who are actually making low incomes, we need to have subsidized housing, highly subsidized housing or housing that’s publicly run that’s not for profit, that’s intended to lose money because we want people to be housed,” said Schweitzer.

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Schreiner and other tenants in her building have organized and formed a tenants’ union. They have asked their landlord, The Green Cities Company to rescind the rent increases.

The Green Cities Company did not respond when asked to comment on the situation.