Evicted Portland tenants get more time to find housing

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PORTLAND — Remaining residents of a Parkside apartment house no longer face eviction March 1, Mayor Ethan Strimling announced at a City Hall news conference Wednesday.

“No one wants people put out on the street in the middle of winter. This will prevent that from happening,” Strimling said of a commitment from Advanced Energy Group to allow 14 tenants of 61-69 Grant St. to stay for “whatever reasonable time it will take” to find new residences.

“Reasonable” was not defined, but Strimling said he was assured after meeting AEG Managing Director John Le before the press conference that no one would be forced out while making progress toward finding new housing.

AEG, which according to city tax records bought the 24-apartment complex in May 2015, issued at-will eviction notices on Dec. 23, 2015, Strimling said. Tenants were given until March 1 to leave, more than double the 30 days required by law.

Company plans to renovate the apartments were documented last September, when a city inspection report cited the landlord for a lack of fire doors in a rear hallway and improper fire door hinges throughout the building. In his report, inspector Craig Messinger noted management eventually intended to “gut the building.”

Of the remaining 14 tenants, seven are using rental vouchers from Shalom House, which provides mental health services in Cumberland and York counties.

Norman Maze, the agency’s housing director, said Shalom House has been trying to move clients into new housing since the eviction notices were issued, and sought city assistance to help pay the first month’s rent for displaced clients.

“There is a lot of competition for housing out there,” Maze said. The agency, using some state and local vouchers, helps provide housing for about 300 clients in Portland.

One of the biggest challenges to finding new homes for the Shalom House clients is the money needed for first month’s rent and security deposits, Maze added.

At the Wednesday evening meeting of the City Council Housing Committee, Assistant Fire Chief Keith Gautreau said safety violations noted in housing inspections last year were minor. An August inspection cited the landlords for not having smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in one apartment, but they were installed before the September inspection that found the additional violations.

Gautreau said Le would have to supply an action plan to correct the door and hinge violations if tenants are allowed to remain after March 1. 

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

The 14 tenants remaining in these apartment houses at 61-69 Grant St. in Portland will be allowed to stay beyond March 1, the eviction date originally ordered by building owners.

Norman Maze of Shalom House on Wednesday, Feb. 24, explains the difficulties of finding new homes for seven clients who will be evicted from 61-69 Grant St. Portland City Councilors Jon Hinck, left, and Belinda Ray, and Mayor Ethan Strimling listen during the City Hall press conference.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.