Tenants and housing advocacy supporters marched to protest a proposed 100% rent increase at the Normandy Apartments in northeast Portland.

Tenants and housing advocacy supporters marched to protest a proposed 100% rent increase at the Normandy Apartments in northeast Portland.

Molly Solomon/OPB

Hundreds of tenants and renters’ rights advocates gathered outside the Normandy Apartment building in Northeast Portland Saturday to protest a rent increase slated to go into effect on April 1.

Families and residents of the Normandy marched through the Cully neighborhood, chanting “sí se puede” and “we are Normandy.”

Portland Police estimate as many as 300 people attended Saturday’s housing rally.

“This is awesome,” said John Schauer, impressed by the crowd turnout. He lives in the nearby Oak Leaf mobile home park. “I don’t think it’s right, doubling somebody’s rent overnight like that. It’s outrageous. If they were to double this right here, I’d be homeless too.”

Yesica Sanchez lives at the Normandy Apartments and works five minutes from her home. She’s lived in the neighborhood for 16 years. But in December, she got a notice that her rent would be increasing to almost $1,300, nearly double what she pays now.

“That’s a whole pay check and you don’t have nothing left over for utility bills or nothing else. And so it’s just tough for everybody,” Sanchez said. “I think we’re all going to be forced to be moved with family members — I don’t know, share rooms. Or end up in a shelter.”

Evelyn Castillo and her cousin Shirley both live at Normandy Apartments with their families. Shirley (center) said her parents would not be able to afford to pay double rent and worries they may become homeless.

Evelyn Castillo and her cousin Shirley both live at Normandy Apartments with their families. Shirley (center) said her parents would not be able to afford to pay double rent and worries they may become homeless.

Molly Solomon/OPB

Sanchez’s son just started kindergarten at Rigler Elementary, a Spanish immersion dual-language school a couple blocks away. He’s one of 26 children from the apartment complex who attend school there. That’s more than 5 percent of the school’s student body. Rigler Principal TJ Fuller was among the hundreds who marched in Saturday’s rally.

“It’s hard,” Fuller said. “I’ve grown to love these kids and these families. For them to feel this pain and fear — it hits me personally.”

The event was organized by housing advocacy group Living Cully. Coordinator Cameron Herrington said the problems at Normandy represent a broader issue around affordable housing and renter’s rights in the Portland area and other cities in Oregon.

“This really demonstrates the need to have some common sense regulations on landlord activity,” Herrington said. “We cannot allow landlords to indiscriminately raise the rent however much they want, as often as they want.”

Living Cully organizer Cameron Herrington before the march.

Living Cully organizer Cameron Herrington before the march.

Molly Solomon/OPB

Herrington said organizers recently sent a letter to Normandy Apartments property owners Ira Virden and Charles Halliday, requesting an in-person meeting with residents. The letter asked for a reply by last Thursday, but that deadline has come and gone with no response. Herrington and other organizers are hoping to turn up the pressure with phone calls from residents and supporters.

Living Cully is among the groups pushing for lawmakers to pass a bill repealing the state’s ban on rent control. Opponents to the bill argue rent control would have a negative impact on housing affordability long-term. It’s one of several measures Oregon lawmakers are considering to address the state’s affordable housing crisis.