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Tenants at Portland's 'The Yards' say unsanitary living conditions need to change

Home Forward, an affordable housing organization, owns The Yards in Northwest Portland.

PORTLAND, Ore. — People living at a Northwest Portland apartment complex are painting a dire picture of their apartments. They say they've had enough.

The tenants who live at The Yards apartments, located at 945 NW Naito Pkwy, situated alongside the west end of the Broadway Bridge, say for the last few years they’ve dealt with unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Home Forward, an affordable housing organization, owns the property.

Photos taken by tenants show the conditions they’re living in.

“There's black mold, rats, cockroaches throughout the property. The carpets are urine-stained throughout the hallways,” said Brian Jackson, a tenant and head of the tenants union at The Yards.

“It's not uncommon to see trash overflowing and stinking in the hallways.”

Add to all that, tenants say they don't feel safe.

“We've had people assaulted with guns, knives, bats, on the property,” said Jackson.

The tenants union has been in talks with Home Forward, but tenants said they’re frustrated because nothing has happened.

On Thursday, Jackson and other tenants joined up with Portland Tenants United. The plan was to hand-deliver demands to Home Forward.

“Repairs need to be made in the building to fix health and safety issues. Security issues in the building need to be fixed through actually hiring an effective security company,” said Anthony Bencivengo, with Portland Tenants United.

Bencivengo said tenants also need to be protected from retaliation if and when they report issues. He said the goal is for Home Forward to pledge that it will not evict tenants for any non-criminal, non-violent lease violations without first attempting professional mediation with the tenant. He said tenants and the tenants union need to be involved in the process of changes.

Another demand is that the contracted management company, Income Property Management, is held accountable.

“Income Property Management again has refused to address these issues with tenants,” said Bencivengo.

He said some tenants have been threatened with eviction after bringing up issues. The move appeared to be retaliatory in nature.

“It's very stressful you know. Your health is declining,” Jackson said.

It’s especially stressful for many tenants who are also low income.

“It's got elderly people. It's got people with disabilities. It's got people who were formerly unhoused. It’s got veterans,” said Bencivengo.

Jackson is a disabled veteran himself with PTSD. He, his fellow tenants, and Portland Tenants United are hoping Home Forward makes some changes.

“They seem really sympathetic. They'll listen to their complaint and then they do nothing, is the problem,” Jackson said.

If the demands aren't met, Bencivengo said some of the tenants have been in contact with lawyers. They don't want to have to take that route if they can avoid it.

In a lengthy statement to KGW, Home Forward said the accusation from Portland Tenants United, that it responds with only words and no action, is not true. Home Forward also said the following:

Over the time that we have been working with residents, we have done the following to enhance the safety and security of the residents at the Yards:

  • We previously relocated the main entrance of the building to enhance security.
  • We previously installed prop alarms on all keyed entrances to the building to prevent the doors from being propped open and allowing uninvited guests to enter the building.
  • We have 31 cameras at the property that provide coverage at all entries and exits, laundry rooms and stairwells.
  • In April, 2018, we hosted a resident meeting with the Portland Police Department for a public safety training.
  • In June, 2018 we added a parking fence/guard at the back of building to avoid cars parking illegally alongside the property.
  • In August, 2018 we instituted a 40-hour a week security presence that also includes five foot patrols around and inside the building, and all residents have the security company’s phone number so they can reach security if needed.
  • We installed keypad locks for the trash room doors in 2018 and ordered doors with windows on them, so residents can see in before entering.

Things we are in the process of doing:

  • We have given notice to residents that we will be disabling the feature of the front door that allows people to buzz in guests to limit the number of uninvited guests entering the building. The buzzer feature will be disabled next week.
  • We will be adding a separate opener on the door so it closes more quickly to avoid uninvited guests following residents into the building. This will occur next week.
  • We will add an additional 13 cameras to our system in early 2019.
  • We are currently working with residents to enhance the security of specific interior windows, and additional window locks and sliders are available to resident at their request.
  • We are installing a fence and gate on one corner of the property and are also looking into the possibility of upgrading fencing around the entire property.

Beyond the security of the building, Home Forward is aware of resident concerns about pest control, black mold, and other health and safety issues. On Monday of this week, IPM completed the required semi-annual inspection of every unit in the building. No black mold was discovered.

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