BOARDMAN - With a 108 degree reading on the Banner Bank sign about a block away, Nora Perez looked for any way to escape the stagnant heat trapped inside her upstairs residence at Sandpiper Apartments.

Perez took a cold shower late Thursday afternoon and had a blanket spread out in the shade in front of the apartment complex situated on North Main Street in Boardman.

"I had air conditioning last year, but don't now," Perez said. "They won't fix the air conditioning, so we have to sit here and wait and suffer. It's ridiculous."

Perez said the manager, Eusebio Chavez, told her until three or four of the apartments need its units fixed, he won't call an air conditioning repairman.

"He said I need a new thermostat. It seems like he'd get right on it," Perez said of the manager.

The East Oregonian was unable to reach Chavez for comment.

Other problems plague the dilapidated apartment complex, bringing it to the attention of the Community Action Program East Central Oregon.

Paula Chavez, a resource developer in CAPECO's Pendleton office, who isn't related to the Sandpiper Apartment manager, said her agency is hopeful to obtain funding to repair the neglected complex.

"We're looking at applying for funds to acquire and rehabilitate Sandpiper Apartments," Chavez said. "If we're funded, we'll remodel it and make it quite pleasing to the eye."

If funded, Chavez said the rehabilitation of Sandpiper Apartments would be a multimillion dollar project.

Chavez has been in contact with Tracy Johnson, with Diamond Crest LLC, regarding purchasing the complex. Although they have discussed a purchase price, Chavez wouldn't comment on the figure without Johnson's approval.

"I think at this point in the preliminary stages, I don't think it would be prudent to divulge information," Johnson said.

Boardman City Manager Rex Mather said the city is very supportive of the proposed project.

"My understanding is CAPECO is hoping to undertake this project," Mather said. "We're excited about that. They are definitely due for some upgrading or refurbishing."

The complex has peeling paint, missing outdoor light fixture covers, doorbells with exposed wires, weeds overgrown in the garden and common areas in the parking lot and leaking outdoor faucets.

The upstairs walkway shows signs of age with warped and gouged plywood. It creaks in spots when walked on.

"The balcony - it's just old," Perez said. "It could fall to the ground at any time."

Perez, who has four children ranging in age from 5-15, has lived in the complex for about eight years.

"I'm a single mom on welfare," she said. "I don't have anywhere to move - it's depressing."

According to Perez, one neighbor finally got frustrated with the lack of response to maintenance problems at the complex and moved out when a low-income housing slot came open.

Perez plans to begin working after her youngest child starts school in the fall. She's hopeful she'll be able to earn enough money to move.

"I want a better life for my kids," she said.

Perez said some of the apartment occupants are undocumented workers from Mexico and are afraid the immigration department will be called if they complain about the conditions.

CAPECO got involved in the proposed project when Bruce Buchanan, regional advisor to the department of Housing and Community Services, contacted Chavez.

Buchanan's job encompasses 10 Eastern Oregon counties in identifying and meeting affordable housing needs.

"Boardman has been on my radar for some time," Buchanan said. "It was just getting the right circumstances to come together at the right time."

Chavez has applied for consolidated funding for the project.

"Consolidated funding is basically a number of funding sources you apply for in one application so you don't have multiple applications and the state of Oregon manages or coordinates it to easily access funding sources," Chavez said.

Buchanan said funding projects is highly competitive.

"Just because a project puts in an application doesn't mean it'll get funded," he said.

During a typical application process, Buchanan said only 50-60 percent of the projects are funded.

Buchanan said he has seven projects proposed for the fall application cycle.

"My counterparts in the state are equally busy," he said.

Buchanan said the Port of Morrow has been quite successful in creating jobs in the area, however many of the workers are commuting from throughout Umatilla and Morrow counties.

"Part of the reason for that is there isn't an adequate supply of affordable housing in Boardman," he said.

Buchanan said market-rate multifamily housing just isn't available within the Boardman city limits.

He has spoken with Mather, Port of Morrow director Gary Neal, and Morrow County Judge Terry Tallman regarding what can be done to improve the housing shortage.

"The Sandpiper is one of those projects that came up on the horizon," Buchanan said.

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