By editorial board • 

Landlords' urgency puts tenants in difficult spots

In early May, residents of McMinnville’s Mulkey RV Park, including low-income seniors stranded in units not suitable for relocation, were served with an eviction notice giving them until July 15 to vacate. The notice cited a landfill expansion project that has been held at bay for more than a decade and may never secure the permits it needs.

Some residents had made their homes on the shady riverside tract for decades. And with the summer travel season moving into full swing, they found workable relocation options severely limited.

The plug was pulled by an out-of-town corporation proving either unable or unwilling to make a plausible case for the unseemly urgency and unfortunate timing. The company’s principal defense seemed to be that the eviction shouldn’t have come as a surprise, as it had made its intent clear many years ago and reiterated its plans on numerous occasions since.

Count us utterly unpersuaded. And judging from community response to date, we don’t think we’re alone.

In early June, another out-of-town corporation began removing window air conditioners from the units of low-income seniors at three federally subsidized Section 8 housing complexes — McMinnville’s Willamette Place, Villa West and Orchard Plaza. It took the action on the heels of a heat wave resulting in local temperatures soaring toward triple-digit range, with the prospect of more to come as the summer hot season progresses.

Residents had to purchase the window units on their own dime in the first place. They were told they could purchase new freestanding units as replacements, also on their own dime, but many didn’t find it all that workable to fit a $300 purchase into a spartan budget.

The company cited siding damage and safety threats posed by poorly installed, poorly maintained and/or ill-fitting units. It said it had announced the new policy in February, giving ample notice to its coterie of tenants.

That also represents a no-sale for us.

June announcement of an October change would make a lot more sense, giving the company’s low-income tenants the entire fall and winter.

We don’t find the uncompromising justification and timing compelling in either of the two cases. We don’t see any reason, in either case, that the well-heeled corporations in question couldn’t grant their low-income clients a summer-season reprieve — and perhaps afford them some help in the meantime as they come to grips with the often-substantial fallout.

We hold the concept of private property rights in high regard. But no more so than the qualities of compassion and compromise, particularly in situations where the disparity in means between corporate landlord and low-income tenant is so cavernous.

There are times when duty falls to the more fortunate among us to make a charitable gesture toward the less fortunate. And these seem like such times to us.

Let cooler heads prevail. Let action wait for the cooler times of fall.

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