Tenants of Bayside Village Apartments gathered on the steps of Portland Town Hall on Monday afternoon and urged the city to reverse a planning council decision that would allow a developer to purchase their Marginal Way apartment building and convert it into apartments at market price.
The impending sale of the property to Port Property Management would force many of the more than 300 tenants, mostly students and low-income people, who would not be able to afford the higher rents. Renters said they are currently paying around $ 620 per month. Having to pay the market rate would force them to become homeless, rally organizers said.
In the current configuration, Bayside Village has 100 quads, each consisting of four bedroom suites or 400 bedrooms in total. Tom Watson, the founder of Port Property Management, is proposing to convert these suites into 196 one- or two-bedroom units, with enough capacity to accommodate 360 residents – roughly the same number of people who live there on average each year.
Watson did not speak at the rally or the city council meeting that followed, where tenants begged councilors to overturn the August 13 planning council decision that resulted in the approval of the Site plan, subdivision and conditional use application of Port Property for mixed use, commercial and residential. project at 132, marginal road.
Watson has vowed not to evict anyone in a July 10 letter he sent to the city council housing committee.
“There will be no mass eviction from the property. I understand people’s fears when a new owner arrives, especially one who is going to do substantial renovations, ”Watson wrote in the letter. “In our 26-year history, we have never carried out mass evictions. It’s just too destructive for everyone’s life. We are very sensitive to the lifestyles and living situations of our tenants.
Watson described the tenant population at Bayside Village as “transient”. About 50 percent of the people who now live in Bayside Village will have moved within one year, with the remainder moving within the second year of rental.
“It’s the nature of a building where you rent a room with a locked door into an apartment without knowing the other residents within the four walls,” Watson wrote. Watson said the conversion will take two to three years.
Despite Watson’s assurances, Bayside Village tenants say they fear eviction because they won’t be able to pay the rent Watson may end up charging for market-priced apartments that won’t involve cohabitation .
They also said renters in their income group don’t have much choice when it comes to finding affordable housing in what is perhaps the most desirable city in the state.
“We have all signed leases that explicitly state that if a Bayside sale takes place, the party buying the property is not obligated to honor the terms of the lease,” Bayside resident Alyssa Floyd said in a statement. . Floyd, a student, who organized Monday’s rally at town hall.
“The tenants demand that the city reverse the planning board’s decision and that the land use decision be reconsidered with input from the tenants,” the tenants said.
In their statement, the tenants demanded that Port Property Management “not only publicly state that they intend to honor the leases of existing tenants to prevent residents from becoming homeless, but to back up this statement with a document. legally binding “. The tenants have also requested to be allowed to live in Bayside until July 31, 2020.
“We want legally binding promises, not statements that are only meant to appease us and allow Port Property Management to do whatever is right for them and is best for their bottom line,” said Floyd.
“This is a fight to protect the needy and the vulnerable,” Floyd said at the rally, which drew about a dozen people. “Immigrants and students who live there may soon be living on the streets. What does this say about us?
After the rally, Floyd and several other Bayside Village tenants begged city council to reverse the planning council’s approval.
“Considering the cost of living in Portland, Bayside Village is the most affordable apartment in the city of Portland. … We will suffer a lot if we leave the apartments in Bayside, ”wrote Da costa Ndahayo, an immigrant who lives in Bayside, in a letter that was read aloud by another tenant.
Eli Prescott, who held a sign at the rally that read “Tax the rich, house the people,” warned city council that converting Bayside Village to market-priced apartments would make many tenants homeless.
“Port Properties wants to turn these units into luxury apartments, to make them as profitable as possible,” Prescott said. “It’s important to remember that there are people who are going to be hurt by this.”
City councilors, acting on the advice of the company’s lawyer, said they could not overturn a city planning council decision. and the tenants’ only option would be to appeal to Cumberland County Superior Court.
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