Nothing’s easy: Silvertowne tenants, management struggle with processes

January 2019 Posted in Community

By Brenna Wiegand

Frustrated in their dealings with management, in July some Silvertowne I and II apartment residents formed a tenants association, looking to increase their effectiveness in dealing with Integrated Supports for Living, the nonprofit organization that took over the affordable housing complexes in Silverton four years ago.

The tenants’ grievances included unfair eviction notices, unsafe conditions, insufficient response to requests and harassment.

“Up until two years ago, this was for me a very happy place,” Lynn Hancock, 82, said. Then she received an eviction notice for not paying rent. Hancock said after the onsite manager found her check in a stack of mail she got another eviction notice saying she’d paid the wrong amount, which proved not to be the case.

“80 years old and my first notice ever,” Hancock said. “I am rarely angry; my life has been long enough with enough trials I can usually find amusement in almost anything, but not this. I haven’t been that angry since I was divorced 40 years ago.”

Another tenant, who requested anonymity, claims management ignored her reports of a tenant that harassed her for six years before he left. Twice, she said, the manager did not complete her subsidy recertification on time because she had mislaid the paperwork, forcing her to pay full, unsubsidized rent for a time.

She has received three eviction notices she says were for being hostile toward management; antagonizing the tenant she was complaining about; and in response to a letter she wrote to IS Living’s
board president.

“I had so little recourse and such limited funds for hiring attorneys,” she said. “…it was a living nightmare.”

Tenants and IS Living CEO Chrislyn Prantl agree that many of the problems at Silvertowne I and II stem from a turnover of onsite managers who proved unequipped for the job. Current manager Tara West is its fourth manager in five years, and many of the blunders occurred under a predecessor who was there for a year spanning 2017 and 2018.

“That manager did some things against our privacy issues such as posting recertification notices with people’s security numbers on them,” tenant
Diane Stone said. “We didn’t feel confident even going to the office for stuff and we didn’t ask for anything that we were not supposed to have. I’m going on my eighth year here and I’ve never experienced that before.”

Aba Gayle, resident and former IS Living board member, said it was an unfortunate situation.

“She was one of those persons who was universally despised; there wasn’t going to be anything she did that was right because she was inept and just didn’t recognize the kinds of people that live here,” Gayle said.

“This position as a manager is so difficult; you’re managing people and then you’re managing compliance,” IS Living CEO Chrislyn Prantl said. “Having Rural Development as our mortgage holder comes with rules and compliance, and compliance for Rural Development is very complicated. Rural Development doesn’t provide a minute of training; we spend about $1,500 a year on training with Oregon Affordable Housing Management Association alone. We do Fair Housing training at least once a year if not twice, and recently we’ve done a lot more because we’ve had turnover.”

Last year IS Living got the green light on $9.7 million in new funds to pay for remodeling and needed repairs as well as preserve affordability for residents. About $2.7 will come from Oregon Housing and Community Services and the remainder from investors through Oregon Housing Finance Agency’s low income housing tax credit program.

“It could be an organization required to perform a certain amount of community support and this satisfies that for them,” Prantl said. “Our 9 percent tax credit is very competitive; investors are practically beating down the door to get to us.”

The project is expected to commence in June and span two years.

When the award was announced, Prantl said funds will be used to pay for new roofs and siding, insulation, doors, trim, gutters, flooring, cabinetry, sinks, bath and kitchen counters, and some appliances, as well as accessibility features for units reserved for residents with disabilities. Upgrades to the grounds, including new landscaping, repaving the roads and parking lots, re-grading slopes and repairing drainage systems and replacing sidewalks are also on the list for both properties along with meeting up-to-date ADA standards.

IS Living also plans to combine Silvertowne I and II into one entity and add a centrally located leasing office/maintenance building.

Even with a new manager and rehab funds on the way, some residents remain leery of IS Living, fearing that when they’re moved out for the repairs they won’t be able to return, primarily because of an increase in rent.

“That will never happen,” Prantl said. “Rents will go up. We haven’t had an increase since 2016; that was 5 percent and as of this month we had an increase of about 9 percent; I expect there will be a rise of less than 10 percent in 2020.

“For the residents with Rental Assistance nothing changes because their rent is based on their income. Basic rent is hugely subsidized already; a one-bedroom apartment in Silvertowne I is $501 and in Silvertowne II, $553.

“We have to maintain our current leases in order to be qualified; we don’t want anybody moving out,” Prantl said. “The way that $9.7 million works is there’s $400,000-plus in there for the relocation program during construction and we are working with a company that’s going to customize that plan.”

“The first tenant meeting started out being nothing but people complaining about things that had happened in the past – it’s over, it’s done,” Gayle said. “I am perfectly willing to go and give workshops and help people to do anything. I’m not willing to be part of a group that is negative, negative, negative.”

Stone said the association has evolved into a group aimed at providing help and information to the tenants. She and Kay Strobel act as advocates for the residents of Silvertowne II; Silvertowne I has two of its own resident advocates.

“I feel very blessed to be here in this type of housing with the assistance we have,” Stone said. “We have a great grapevine here and we look out for each other, but rumors will get going, and if people have an issue and are uncomfortable with going to management they can come to us. We are trying to get more participation but a lot of people either have physical problems or other obligations.”

“I’m not a cuddly reassurance kind of person; I’m out there trying to get money (for maintenance and subsidies), so we welcome tenant association as a good medium to disseminate information,” Prantl said.

Stone says things are improving, even though for now a band-aid approach seems to be the answer to many of Silvertowne’s maintenance woes.

“They marked the sidewalks where the hazards are but with the leaves covering the sidewalks we can’t see them,” tenant Shahoni Moseley said. “Another issue is inadequate lighting; there are a lot of tree limbs that are over the lights and they’re blocking out the light at night so we
can’t see.

“In 2016 I came home from vacation to an eviction notice on my door,” Moseley added. “They claimed they didn’t get my check but had to drop it because the bank printed out a statement showing it was issued. They lost my checks twice.

“I’ll be 75 in another month,” Moseley said. “I’m tired of being threatened and intimidated. They gave out blanket notices about patios and not everyone’s patios are in the kind of shape that they’re talking about. And they also gave out blanket notices about cats.”

Prantl said the eviction process is always aimed at preserving tenancy rather than removing tenants, as turnover is more expensive.

“When a lease violation interferes with other residents’ peaceful enjoyment, staff’s ability to perform their duties or eligibility, we issue a Notice of Eviction that spells out exactly what the tenant is expected to do within a 14-day period to avoid eviction,” Prantl said.

“There are a handful of people who are unhappy with me and it’s because I’m holding them to the terms of their lease. And they’re things that are close to peoples’ hearts, like their animals, and if they don’t follow the rules, there’s nothing I can do.”

Tenants’ association members say little or nothing was done about maintenance complaints such as unsafe sidewalks, flooding of a parking lot and laundry room and a lack of hot water in a laundry facility. In late fall two tenants approached the City of Silverton, which sent out Building Official Daryl Jones
in November.

The inspection revealed several municipal code violations. New roofs were being installed at Silvertowne II. Management was planning to wait until the major construction project to replace gutters,  Jones said. Due to heavy rains the result was standing water on several entryways and patios and some units had water entering under the threshold.

Also cited were windows difficult to operate, doors that wouldn’t seal and units infested with sugar ants. Jones also found water heaters with broken anti-scald valves and other plumbing-related issues. He said the city will be following up with IS Living in regard to items that need to be addressed immediately and those that can wait for the major remodel.

“We are inspected all the time; Rural Development is especially tough on us because they’re the mortgage holder giving us a 1 percent interest rate,” Prantl said. “We’ve been in deferred maintenance for years which has kept us out of some grants. There are funds available to manage any health and safety issues but we think we’ve got health and safety already taken care of; that’s our highest priority.”

IS Living was formed in 2015 when Oregon Housing & Associated Services (w), which built Silvertowne I and II for low income elderly and disabled people, merged with Spruce Villa, whose mission was to serve the mentally handicapped.

At the time, 44 of Silvertowne’s 86 units came with Rental Assistance. Last year it was awarded another ten.

“RA is a huge boon for people; it’s an amazing thing, but if they leave it stays with the property,” Prantl said. “I am asking Rural Development to give us 100 percent RA (units) and I’m never letting up.”

“Chrislyn and the board want this place to be available,” Gayle said. “It’s crazy that we’re allowed to live here at the rents we pay, and if anything goes wrong I just fill out a form and it’s taken care of. They’ve done so much for us; we had all new heating and cooling systems put in last year; my winter electric bill went from almost $90 down to $34. We also got new refrigerators.

“The sidewalks should have been taken care of some time ago; that’s pretty much between the CEO and the onsite manager,” Gayle said. “We had a very bad manager for a year and she’s gone now.
I think the new manager will be fine.

“I love living here,” Gayle added. “When I move out it’s going to be because I can’t take care of myself anymore. It’s wonderful, independent living.”

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.