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But some renters say evictions go too far; target the wrong people



ADAM WICKHAM - The Grant View Court apartment complex is in the midst of a turnaround.Six months ago, a new manager within Templeton Property Management took over at Grant View Court, an 80-unit apartment complex just blocks away from the heart of Rockwood.

The new direction, as Templeton asset manager Maggie McGregor described the manager’s replacement, came with the mission also to “improve the clientele in the Rockwood area and increase the value of the property.”

For police, who said Grant View Court is one of the most problematic apartment complexes in the area, this was something to cheer about.

But the news wasn’t so joyous for some residents who began receiving eviction notices in the process.

“There have been a lot of evictions and I believe more coming,” said Dan Estes, a Gresham police officer on the Neighborhood Enforcement Team.

Kadija Bradford was one of those evicted from Grant View Court five weeks ago and she and her five children have been homeless since.

According to Bradford, she received one notice in the mail telling her to go to court for non-payment of rent, but Bradford said a nonprofit agency paid her rent, plus a late fee, but Templeton rejected the checks.

“There wasn’t an issue or a problem leading up to [the eviction],” Bradford said. “[The new manager] said she wanted to clean up the building.”

“They pretty much forced us onto the streets,” Bradford said Tuesday, April 7. She had lived in Grant View Court with her family for four years.

'Felony Friendly'

The complex, located at 820 S.E. 190th Ave., has a troubled history.

On Templeton’s website, the units are described as having a playground, on-site laundry facilities and extra storage space. They sit on 3.25 acres and were built in 1965. A two-bedroom, one-bath unit is listed for $850 and a three-bedroom, one-bath unit is listed for $900.

But police have different terms to describe the units: Estes said they have a reputation has being “second chance housing” and “felony friendly.”

“At Grant View we were getting nightly callers, multiple callers, saying there were fights, shots fired,” said Police Lt. Claudio GrandJean. “It was all the time. And I don’t think it’s over. I think it’s still going on.”

Specifically, Estes said, in the last six months there have been 114 calls for service to Grant View. The calls range from verbal and physical disturbances to assault and rape.

A large concentration of Pacific Islanders living there have formed a gang as well, 691 Mafia, adding to the problems, police said.

Last month, Estes said new tenants — a husband, wife and their young daughter — called police after a gang member assaulted the husband. The husband escaped while the wife called police and when officers arrived there was no one to be found. After the officers left, the gang returned, “kicked in the door where the wife was and assaulted her in front of her child,” Estes said, noting that the wife was too scared to call police a second time.

“This is the kind of stuff we’re dealing with,” Estes said. “In November, before the new manager took over, there were 23 calls of service. In December … 24 calls of service. That’s almost a call a day.”

In mid-December, Templeton Property Management replaced the property manager who had lived on site with Lana Ayala, who police said may fare better because she doesn't live in one of the units.

“When you’re living on a complex with a lot of violent offenders, for your own safety, I don’t know how hard-nosed you would want to be,” Estes said. “Ayala is getting rid of the people that are causing police response and putting other tenants in fear and moving in people that are waiting for housing and need assistance but don’t have the violent criminal background.”

In addition to the evictions, police said a new parking policy was enacted because one of the biggest complaints had stemmed from the parking lot where there were people drinking, fighting, loitering and selling drugs.

To get a parking permit to park in the complex under the new rules, residents need to provide the manager with proof of their driver's license and insurance information.

“When it was enacted, of the 80-unit complex, only 16 cars were allowed to be there,” Estes said. “That just goes to show you how many people were driving unlawfully with no license or no insurance. [Now] the officers have referred to the parking lot as a ghost town.”

Evictions

Maggie McGregor, the asset manager for Templeton Property Management, said the occupancy for the complex has not dipped below 92 percent.

“The only evictions we currently have were based on for-cause notices and for non-payment on rent, which is standard procedure for all of our properties,” McGregor said, noting that it would be “unethical” to give out other information about residency.

In addition to Grant View Court, Templeton manages 11 properties in Gresham.

“We’re trying to improve the clientele in the Rockwood area and increase the value of the property,” McGregor said. “We own our property outright, so investors are looking to increase investments based on the fact that there is urban renewal and we are trying to make sure we capitalize on that.”

McGregor said Templeton has started to make improvements on their properties with lighting and landscaping, replacing roofing and “trying to make sure that the property in general is improving and increasing overall investment.”

“Obviously we have certain responsibilities to our tenants, but we have certain responsibilities to our investors as well,” McGregor said.

Paul Muldrew, who lives at another property managed by Templeton, Pine Square at 665 N.E. 178th Ave., recently went to court to fight his eviction and succeeded in staying in his apartment.

“My situation is a really big mess. What they’re doing is they’re charging people for rent that’s already been paid” Muldrew said. “So many people are being evicted and so many people are leaving.”

Muldrew, who has his rent subsidized with aid from Human Solutions, said he believes “there is some fishy stuff going on.”

“My next-door neighbor, she’s been [getting rent assistance] for two years and they’re constantly putting eviction notices on her door,” Muldrew said. “They’re affecting a lot of families and they don’t even care.”

Sam McCoy, who lives at the Templeton-managed property on Stark Street at 611 S.E. 190th Ave., said he was about $200 behind on his rent when he received an eviction notice and went to court.

“Their lawyer said they don’t want the money. 'Just move,' basically,” McCoy said. “They didn’t want to work with me. I’m on Social Security.”

Calling Templeton “slumlords,” McCoy said his home is filled with mildew, his oven doesn’t work, his toilet is leaking, and he is sometimes scared to leave his home .

“It’s bad around the neighborhood,” McCoy said. “I don’t go outside at night.

According to Dung Ho, an education program director with the Oregon Community Alliance of tenants, landlords can give tenants a 72-hour notice to pay rent or move out after rent is more than seven days overdue and do not have to accept payments after the notice period has ended.

Leaders at some of the Metro-area nonprofit organizations that serve families in Rockwood said it’s also not unusual for new management to come in and attempt to clean a property up with evictions, but with the impending revitalization of Rockwood, evictions spark fear among residents worried about being pushed out.

“We’re concerned about gentrification happening out in Rockwood,” said Jenny Holmes, director of environmental ministries for the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, which has been trying to connect Bradford with new housing and resources.

“It sounds like a stretch, but I think these kind of subtle actions indicate that some property owners are wanting to take advantage of the change and be able to increase their profits.”

Holmes said Ecumenical Ministries has put Bradford — the mother of five children — in touch with a number of resources and individual employees have pitched in to provide the family with a few nights here and there at a hotel.

For the low-income residents who are frequently moved around and may have trouble securing steady work, there is no easy answer to finding housing.

“It’s really, really difficult to deal with this and find a sustainable solution that’s going to work in the long term,” Holmes said. “I think there is the potential, that without really strong community involvement and watchdogging, that Rockwood could go the way of Northeast Portland, and we don’t want it to go that way. We want to see opportunities created.”

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