Wheeler: 'Red House' negotiations between family, developer
Mayor Ted Wheeler said Monday morning that negotiations are underway to resolve the week-long standoff over the so-called Red House on North Mississippi Avenue.
During a morning press conference, Wheeler said his office and other parties have facilitated discussions between the Kinney family who lost the home in a foreclosure in 2019 and the developer who bought it at an auction. Wheeler said the streets and sidewalks around the house are being reopened as the talks continue.
"The Mayor's office used words, not weapons, to advance the safety of the neighborhood," Wheeler said. Wheeler said that his office helped facilitate the negotiations, but that it was between two private parties.
"I want to thank both Kinney family and developer," he said.
However, the Kinney family issued a statement Monday morning saying that they had not been in direct contact with the developer and no agreement has yet been reached to return the home to them.
"We have no choice but to continue occupying the land for the Kinney family. While our demands have been pushed through at the governmental level and the family's story has reached a global audience, our fight is not over. The Kinneys have not yet secured their home. Developer Roman Ozeruga has yet to initiate any negotiations. The family's cases remain in litigation," a statement from the family said.
Told of the statement during the press conference, Wheeler said that he believes the negotiations are being conducted through other parties, including members of his staff. Wheeler added that it was not his role to tell the Kinneys and the developer what to do, but that he believes those people who have displayed weapons during the occupation are hurting the chances of a peaceful resolution.
"That's not negotiations, that's extortion," Wheeler said.
Wheeler also used the press conference to call out the "political gridlock in Washington, D.C., and Salem" over the upcoming end of the eviction moratorium in the new year.
"Support for rent relief is urgently needed," said Wheeler, stressing that city government does not have enough money to pay rent or even legal fees for all the households facing eviction when the current moratorium expires at the end of the year.
Wheeler said he sent the Kinneys a letter Saturday stating he and other city leaders share their perspective about the urgent need to address systemic failures in the housing, banking and judicial systems.
"We acknowledge these failures are, more often than not, the result of institutional racism and overt racist action to oppress Black and Indigenous people," Wheeler wrote. The mayor also offered the family help with finding temporary housing and legal counsel. He also explained methods that could help them regain their home.
Wheeler thanked the neighbors and the Mississippi neighborhood for their patience. Demonstrators started forming barricades around the home last Tuesday, blocking streets and preventing people from entering the property. Witnesses told KOIN 6 News that people inside the area were armed with guns.
KOIN 6 News is a partner of the Portland Tribune and contributed to this story. Their version can be found here.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.