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Seniors living in Tigard low-income apartments testify ahead of rent hikes

About two years ago, the tenants were told their building’s affordability restrictions would expire in three years, meaning rents would be raised to market rate.

TIGARD, Ore. — A group of seniors who live in low-income housing in Tigard are facing steep rent hikes. They took to the Washington County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday morning to testify about their fear of being priced out of their housing and becoming homeless.

The strength of their community was on display as each tenant took to the podium, begging for something to be done to save their housing.

“They’re not neighbors, they’re our friends and we don’t want to have to go anywhere,” said Shelly Perez a tenant at Woodspring Apartments. “We don’t want to have to choose between getting a prescription and paying our rent.”

The Woodspring Apartments are tucked just off the busy Oregon Route 99W in the southwest corner of Tigard. For 30 years, it’s been affordable housing for people like Lois Keck who make less than 60% of the area median income.

“I’ve lived here 20 years. I’ve considered it to be my forever home,” said Keck. 

About two years ago, the tenants were told that the building’s affordability restrictions would expire in three years, meaning rents would be raised to market rate — expected to be about $1,800 a month. Currently they’re paying closer to $1,000 a month.

“We all were under the assumption it would go on forever, nobody said at 30 years it was over,” said Keck.  

After the seniors learned they would be facing rent hikes, they formed the Woodspring Tenant Association to try and save their homes.

“Thank you for your comments. I want you to know you’ve been heard,” said Kathryn Harrington, chair for the Washington County Board of Commissioners, in response to one tenant's testimony.

The county said that will give the tenants $3,000 to move or put toward rent. The tenants have about 10 more months to decide which option they're going to take.

The county’s Housing Communications Coordinator said in an email to KGW: “We know that it has been a very difficult time for the residents there and have been in contact with them to implement our Short-Term Assistance for Tenants with Expiring Affordability program.”

Many tenants said they haven’t been able to navigate the Short-Term Assistance program since it’s online and they either don’t have internet or lack access to a computer.

“Why in the world are they sending us out on the street when they got property that can for a fraction of the money keep us housed,” said Keck.

KGW reached out to the Woodspring Apartment’s management team on Tuesday and is still waiting for a response.

“It’s like they’ve forgotten us and that we don’t matter. I just want to matter,” said Perez.

Many argue that what’s happening to the tenants at Woodspring Apartments is just a sign of what’s to come for other apartment complexes in the region facing similar rent hikes.

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