By Simon Gutierrez

PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – A property once praised as an affordable enclave for Portland artists has fallen into disrepair and is a shadow of its former self, according to tenants who live there. 

Milepost 5, a mix of affordable apartments in a converted retirement home in northeast Portland, was built with funding and support from the city just over 10 years ago, with the idea that it would offer a sustainable living and creative environment for Portland artists who were being priced out of their homes.

Over the past year, tenants said the property has been plagued by a lack of security and unperformed maintenance, and they’ve complained to property managers about strange people sleeping in common areas, syringes in hallways, and heaters and laundry facilities not working, without an adequate response from the management company and property owner.

“Basic maintenance is being ignored. Toilets, commonly shared toilets are plugged up and unusable for weeks. That’s not acceptable,” said Kyle Curtis, a tenant at Milepost 5.

The company that turned the former retirement home on Northeast 82nd Avenue into affordable living spaces for artists sold to new owners in 2018.

The company that took over, Community Development Partners, says it specializes in sustainable affordable housing, but tenants said the new ownership group and the company brought in to manage the property have been unresponsive to their concerns.

“It’s gone from like artists living with like art all over the place to like, the art is gone, the place is being demolished and vandalized. We have, like, blood in the halls. It’s just been kind of scary,” said Amber Cook, an artist who has lived at Milepost 5 for two years.

In addition to livability issues, tenants said they recently got notices for rent increases.

Although the property isn’t currently regulated by the state, the owner is applying for affordable housing tax credits.

A spokesperson for Oregon Housing and Community Services confirmed the agency informed CDP the proposed increases could disqualify them from receiving those credits because the increases were higher than state standards for affordable housing.

CDP then voluntarily rescinded the increases, the spokesperson said.

Other tenants, like Curtis, said they were kicked out of the property because they made too much money.

Curtis, who moved into Milepost 5 to be around other artists, said he has 90 days to find a new place to live.

“What am I going to do, go live in a motel and deal with that stress and then possibly lose my job? Well, then maybe I’d be eligible to move back in here, but that’s just, it’s so self-defeating. It doesn’t make any sense,” said Curtis.

For those tenants who remain, the property no longer looks like the communal art space it was designed to be.

A community woodshop and creative space, for instance, has been padlocked shut and is no longer accessible to tenants.

In a statement, Community Development Partners said it is “committed to creating safe, livable, and affordable housing for the community of artists and all tenants at Milepost 5. We take all feedback from residents seriously and are always looking for ways to improve.”

According to CDP, some of the issues frustrating tenants were compounded when both maintenance and cleaning personnel abruptly quit around the same time.

The company said tenants were compensated with half a month’s rent for the inconvenience.

Copyright 2020 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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