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The city of Portland took steps this week to foreclose on four severely ramshackle homes that had been allowed to degrade for years. The move is intended in large part to relieve long-suffering neighbors from safety threats and eyesores.

Officials in the office of Auditor Mary Hull Caballero asked the City Council to foreclose on the homes because their owner, Norman Yee, failed for years to remedy code violations or pay tens of thousands of dollars in city liens, Marco Maciel, the city foreclosures manager, told the council.

The homes had “lengthy histories of health and safety violations, numerous police calls, negative effects on neighborhoods, and lack of responsiveness and corrective action,” according to a city filing.

Axl Pine lives next door to one of Yee’s properties, on Southeast 137th Avenue. Pine said the rundown house has for years attracted squatters, who he believes sold drugs because a “line of cars” made short visits to the house almost daily.

“I was literally calling the cops pretty much every night to deal with something different,” said Pine, 28.

He said he has two children and at times felt he and his family were unsafe because of the people living in Yee’s abandoned house.

A man who answered a phone number listed on business incorporation records filed by Yee said “beats me” when asked to explain why Yee’s properties were foreclosed upon. The man then said “I have nothing to say” and hung up.

Maciel said Yee racked up more than $67,000 in liens on the four properties. The city foreclosed on four other Yee properties earlier this year, Maciel said.

Several properties owned by Yee have in recent years been the subject of news media attention because they are in disastrous shape: abandoned, piled high with garbage, taken over by unkempt plants, and often home to squatters who frighten neighbors. Police had been called to the homes and the areas beside them dozens of times, a city filing shows.

At the property on Southeast 137th, squatters built a shed in the backyard where others also moved in, tampered with the water meter in an effort to turn on the flow and gave an inspector a forged lease agreement in an attempt to show they could live there, according to the city filing. Police were called to the property more than 150 times in seven years.

Maciel acknowledged that the city is slow to foreclose on derelict properties and that is intentional. The city’s aim is to persuade property owners to pay their liens and fix their homes, Maciel said, not seize the properties as soon as the city is able.

Maciel said he tried for more than two years to persuade Yee to fix his homes before the City Council resorted to foreclosure. Hundreds of monthly statements were sent to addresses in Yee’s name. Maciel even met Yee and his lawyers, he said, but Yee never righted his arrears.

The rundown state of the properties and Yee’s unwillingness to do something about them “defies logic,” Maciel said.

Yee still owns at least a half dozen other homes in the city.

As for Pine, who lives next door to a house owned by Yee, he said it’s “bullcrap” that the city can’t move faster to rehabilitate blighted homes or auction them to someone who will.

Pine said there’s at least been one positive change at the Yee property on 137th Avenue. A sign was staked in the front yard just this week, Pine said. It reads “for sale.”


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