Holgate Manor tenants wage rent strike in face of looming no-cause evictions

On Aug. 1, 14 tenants of Holgate Manor—an apartment community that housed many people on low and fixed incomes, refugees and immigrants for nearly 40 years—voted for a rent strike, citing a 9.9 percent increase in rent, disruptive construction noise and unaddressed health and safety violations as the primary motivators.

In January 2018, the 82-unit apartment complex was purchased for $12 million by Pacific Transwest Real Estate Inc., a company owned by California investor Fred Kleinbub. Pacific Transwest is currently managed by Princeton Property Management of Portland. Since the acquisition, the rent has increased with no attempts made to remedy issues with the complex.

“Some tenants have had the city do health inspections [in their units],” said Anthony Bencivengo of Portland Tenants United. The inspection found fire code violations including smoke detectors having been being removed from units as well as faulty wiring. It was also noted that a majority of the complex’s units—including those that had been recently remodeled—still contained old windows with mold damage.

There was concern that Princeton Property Management would evict the tenants following the rent strike. According to Margot Black, a member of Portland Tenants United, “They haven’t issued 72-hour notices yet.” Black explained such notices “would come before an eviction notice.” Negotiations are continuing with PTU focusing on getting tenants demands met using the “rolling strike model.”

In March 2018, the tenants of Holgate Manor received a letter offering them money and incentives if they were to move out ahead of scheduled renovations to the complex. “The original letter was written only in English,” Bencivengo said. According to Change.org, there are eight different languages spoken by the residents who live in the complex, some of whom do not speak or read English. According to Willamette Week, addressing this language barrier had been one of the demands from the tenants.

Bencivengo explained that due to ambiguity in the letters, “a lot of tenants thought they’d be forced [to move out].” He went on to say, “it was never explained that wasn’t the case.” Residents were offered move-out contracts, which consisted of accepting a cash offer of up to $4,200 by the owner—equivalent to the relocation assistance value for no-cause evictions in Portland—and an additional $1,000 if the offer was accepted in the first month.

However, as Black explained via email, “It’s not that they had to accept the offer in the first month, they had to move out in that first month, and they didn’t get the [relocation money] until turning in their keys.” If tenants accepted after the first month, they would only receive the initial cash incentive, which would have been required in the case of a no-cause eviction pursuant to the standards laid out by the Portland City Council’s Mandatory Renter Relocation Program.

The consequences for not accepting the offer of a payout within a month of receiving the letter was a 9.9 percent increase in rent, an amount that falls .01 percent below a 10 percent increase which kept Kleinbub and Pacific Transwest legally untouchable by the Portland City Council’s requirements.

Kleinbub owns a number of buildings in the Portland metropolitan area through his companies, Apache Ventures and Pacific Transwest Real Estate. They include Mitchell Court—now rebranded as the Arleta—off Southeast 72nd Ave, which was purchased by Kleinbub for $5.3 million in 2015. Kleinbub also owns the City View Apartments on Southwest 10th and Boulder Garden in Clackamas and the Sandringham Apartments, just east of the Lloyd Center.

“We really don’t know what Princeton intends to do or how they’ll respond to this strike,” Bencivengo said, going on to say that they “hope they meet the demands [of the Holgate Manor tenants].”

“In reality, we aren’t going to let anyone get kicked out,” Black said. “We hope as a Portland property management company that they’ll do the right thing.”