The Peregrine Relocations Story

Peregrine Relocations is a small, local company that has provided temporary tenant relocation services in the Portland area for almost a decade. We specialize in many things, but our main focus is helping people with special needs obtain a comfortable temporary residence while their homes are being remodeled. We pack, move, unpack, and help tenants settle into their temporary relocation units, then perform the same process in reverse when their remodeled homes are ready for them. Throughout this process, we treat all the residents of these buildings with kindness and compassion.

Peregrine Relocations is the only small business in the Portland/Vancouver area exclusively providing high quality tenant care and regulatory compliance throughout a low-income subsidized building’s remodeling process. Our team is experienced in following Federal Uniform Relocation Act guidelines, and in maintaining the required records.

Our founder, Larisa Zimmerman, was mentored into this work by writer and civil rights activist Martha Gies. For several years in a row, Martha was hired by Northwest Pilot Project to prepare a catalog of the low-income housing buildings in Portland. This meant that, when investors began to "flip" subsidized buildings in downtown Portland into market-rate condominiums in the 1990s, Martha had extensive knowledge of where the displaced tenants could be relocated.

Fifteen years into doing permanent relocation work, Martha decided to retire, and when Harsch Investments asked her to oversee the temporary relocation of the 1200 Building, she trained Larisa as her replacement. John Hartog was working as an apartment packer during that time, and when it became clear that the temporary relocation of 89 tenants — including one floor of Assisted Living units for tenants with disabilties — was more work than one person could do alone, he stepped up to assist Larisa. After completing a second successful relocation project for Harsch Investments at Lexington Apartments, Larisa and John formed Peregrine Relocations.

Any relocation project Peregrine takes on is a team effort. We strive to hire packers who are conscientious, honest, and hard working. We work closely with tenants who entrust us with the care of their belongings, and we do not take that trust lightly. We strive to treat all the residents of these buildings with kindness and compassion.

Moving can be a stressful endeavor for anyone. Many residents have lived in these apartments for decades, making the relocation process a considerable and understandable source of stress (and doubly so for people with special needs). We understand these concerns, and try our very best to make sure the process for tenants is as simple and painless as possible. Our staff are empathetic and compassionate, and take pride in their work helping tenants. We hope that these qualities are a comfort to tenants during their sometimes-difficult transitional period, and that this helps to make them confident that they and their belongings will be treated with care. Respect and kindness is our ultimate goal.

A Brief History of Relocation in Portland

by Amanda Waldroupe

In Portland, relocation services go back decades. It is a social service which arose out of crisis.

Portland, like many major cities, had numerous buildings in its downtown core that low-income, transient, and formerly homeless people called home. Tenants lived in a small room in these buildings, known as “single-resident occupancy” hotels, or SROs, and shared bathrooms and kitchens at the end of the hallway on each floor. They were not much, but to Portland’s poorest residents, they offered housing that was safe, private, and most importantly, affordable.

In 1974, Congress started the Section 8 program, which is administered by the federal Housing and Urban Development agency (HUD). The Section 8 program allows qualifying individuals or families to pay one-third of their income in rent, and the federal government pays landlords the difference. Part of the Section 8 program is “project-based,” which means that the affordability is linked to the building: if a tenant moves into a building in the project-based Section 8 program, their rent is automatically subsidized.

The program gave building owners and developers a strong incentive to join the Section 8 program. The federal government guaranteed that landlords would receive fair-market rent in exchange for bringing buildings up to current housing code and allowing people who qualified for the Section 8 program to live in them. HUD entered into contractual agreements with building owners, assuring that the building would be a part of the Section 8 program for 20 to 30 years at a time.

Portland’s stock of downtown affordable housing increased. According to the Affordable Housing Inventory maintained by Northwest Pilot Project, a Portland-based social service agency that services the elderly, Portland had close to 6,000 units of affordable housing available in the downtown area.

Starting in the late 1990s, the contracts between building owners and HUD started to expire.

At that time, Portland’s real estate market was competitive and hot. Property values had risen, and although Portland had never suffered from urban blight the way many Midwest and East Coast cities had, living in downtown had more cache, and the demand for converting buildings to condos was strong.

Rather than renew the contracts with HUD, many building owners sold their buildings and walked away with a thick wad of cash. Entire buildings of tenants — some of whom had lived in a building for decades — faced 30-day evictions. Finding a new home and moving into it on their own was a steep, if not impossible, challenge for many. Tenants who faced eviction included elderly people with physical and mental infirmities. Some also had criminal histories or histories of drug and alcohol abuse, issues that would inevitably show up on a background check and disqualify them from housing. And they were all poor, and simply could not have saved the money to pay security deposits and upfront move-in costs.

Faced with the prospect that hundreds of impoverished and frail people would become homeless, Portland’s social service agencies scrambled to react in time. Northwest Pilot Project took on much of the work of finding new homes for the evicted. When owners of the Roosevelt Plaza, a 58-unit hotel on the south Park Blocks, evicted its tenants, Northwest Pilot Project asked local writer and human rights activist Martha Gies to spearhead relocation efforts.

Over the next 10 years, downtown buildings evicted a total of 2,000 tenants after the contracts with HUD expired. By 2002, according to Northwest Pilot Project, 3,500 units of affordable housing in downtown Portland were left, close to a third less than what the city of Portland promised would be preserved in its Central City Plan.

In the late 2000s, social service and affordable housing developers started becoming more proactive about saving what remained of Portland’s affordable housing stock. Knowing that HUD contracts will expire and building owners can choose not to renew their contracts, affordable housing and social services organizations are now approaching owners to either persuade them to renew the contract with HUD, or sell the building to an affordable housing developer willing to take over the contract and ensure the building remains a part of the Section 8 program.

In 2013, Martha Gies retired from providing relocation services and Peregrine Relocations LLC was formed by her mentee, Larisa Zimmerman. Westmoreland Union Manor is the first building-wide relocation that Peregrine Relocations has performed.