Disabled residents facing eviction.
Correction (published Aug. 7, 2010): About 20 apartment tenants in Eugene may face an eviction threat because of a dispute between their landlord and Lane County's public housing agency. A story summary on Friday's City/Region front incorrectly said the dispute involved a state agency.
About 20 elderly and disabled apartment tenants in Eugene may face an eviction threat - for the second time in almost three years - caught once again in the crossfire between their landlord and a public housing agency.
The Housing and Community Services Agency of Lane County said it will end rental subsidies next month for residents at Country Club Manor, citing contract issues with apartment owner Max Liebreich. Without the subsidy the residents probably won't have the money for rent and will have to move, an agency official said.
The agency said Lieb reich violated his contract by charging a $12 monthly fee for use of an air conditioner and by charging more in rent to tenants who receive the subsidies. The subsidies come in the form of federal Section 8 housing assistance payments that cover about two-thirds of a low-income recipient's rent.
The decision to end the apartment's participation in the federal program followed Liebreich's failure to respond to repeated requests to resolve the issues, the county agency said in a letter to Liebreich this month. Bev Bjurling, an agency supervisor, said the move is causing "great distress" among tenants who receive the subsidy.
"They are all elderly and/or disabled and many of them have lived in those units for 15 years or so," Bjurling said. "They feel a great loss of community if they have to leave."
Liebreich would answer a reporter's questions Thursday. But he said local housing officials made a mistake regarding the subsidized tenants and got angry when he "called them on it."
This is not the first time that Liebreich has been in a dispute with public housing officials over practices at the apartment complex at 2477 Cal Young Road.
In a 2007 settlement agreement between Liebreich and Oregon Housing and Community Services, Lieb reich agreed not to be involved in ongoing management or inside maintenance of the apartments and not to begin eviction proceedings against tenants without first contacting the state agency. Max and his brother, Howard Liebreich, had overcharged tenants by imposing various fees and had failed to maintain a waiting list and other documents according to federal Housing and Urban Development standards, officials said.
That agreement ex-pired in April 2009 with the termination of the Liebreichs' contract with HUD. But under federal rules, each tenant who had received federal support under the old contract had to be offered a voucher for similar federal assistance that is run by the local housing agency, Bjurling said.
Despite the track record of disputes involving Liebreich, the local agency did not initially have the authority to preclude the landlord from continuing participation in the subsidy program. "Our concern in hindsight is why Oregon Housing and Community Services didn't exercise the powers they had to prevent him from receiving subsidies," Bjurling said.
Marlys McNeill, an administrator in asset property management with the state agency, said the state's involvement ended with the contract in 2009 and that only HUD has authority over participation in the subsidy program.
Lee Jones, a spokesman for the Seattle regional office of HUD, said it is "unacceptable" to charge more in rent to subsidized tenants or to charge for use of an air conditioner. Jones said Thursday was the first he'd heard of concerns from the local housing agency.
"If it turns out this landlord is acting inappropriately, we will move appropriately to correct the situation," Jones said. "We need to make sure we know what the facts are."
Meanwhile, tenant Dorene Wendt said many of the residents are in their 60s, 70s and 80s, and that they're "worried and angry and frustrated."
Wendt, who is 75 years old and blind, said her rent is close to $700 but she pays only $279, while the federal subsidy covers the rest. Without the subsidy she said she won't be able to make ends meet, given she lives on $1,000 per month in retirement and Social Security benefits.
"At this point, I want to move - I don't want to have to go through this again," Wendt said. "I don't want to have another stroke over this. At my age and my health, I want peace."
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|Title Annotation:||Government Local; A dispute between the landlord and a state agency may end rental subsidies|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Aug 6, 2010|
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