Applewood Retirement closure displaces dozens of seniors in tough rental market

On Wednesday morning, a resident at the Applewood Retirement Community balanced folded cardboard boxes on her motorized scooter, tucked in between her legs and the steering column. She made her way to the elevator, and pressed the button to go to her room.

Residents of the two-story retirement home on Northeast Lancaster Street were told April 1 they had until the end of the month to find somewhere else to live because the owners were selling the building. The 69-unit building is home to dozens of seniors, some of whom have lived there for over a decade.

“Everybody was surprised that this eviction was happening, including the staff,” said resident Sharon Burge. “I’m 81, I didn’t hear every single thing that was said, but they gave us the eviction notice and a pamphlet stating we had 30 days to get out and that all services would be discontinued on (April 15).”

The eviction has forced seniors to scramble to find new housing as the cost of rentals has far outpaced inflation in Salem and across the state. Seven residents who spoke to Salem Reporter said they’d been able to find new rentals, but often at a cost of several hundred dollars more per month. Several are moving to Woodburn because of the lack of local affordable housing.

“For me, this has been, and still is, absolutely disheartening. You just feel like you’ve been thrown away,” Burge said.

Residents said the notice came in the form of a surprise meeting with representatives from Sapphire Health Services, the Portland-based senior housing company which manages the property.

Sapphire leases the property from owner Summit Health Care. Summit did not respond to Salem Reporter’s request for details on the closure and building sale.

Summit acquired Applewood in 2015 as part of a $14.2 million purchase that included another facility in Portland, according to a Summit press release at the time. As an independent living facility, Applewood provides meals and activities for residents but not health care.

Lisa Hilty, president of Sapphire Health Services, said residents were notified on April 1 because that’s when the sale was finalized.

“The owners approached us to let us know that there was a buyer. And so we were informed and are proceeding with the closure,” she said.

Hilty said that to her understanding, the property will become a drug and alcohol treatment facility offering programs.

Hilty said that since the announcement, they’ve been bringing in local retirement communities to share information about vacancies and resources at a “good variety of price points” and have organized bus trips for residents to visit them.

Sapphire offered help with touring, packing and moving, Hilty said. She said that during visits with new communities, some had moves paid for and were offered specials to help with the move.

“It’s been from what could have been an unfortunate situation turned into, a lot of communities are excited to have new energy, and the clients are excited about their new opportunities,” she said.

Hilty said Applewood’s rents ranged from $1,850 to $2,550 per month, with additional fees for optional services. 

When it comes to those feeling displaced, Hilty said, “I haven’t heard from those folks.”

One couple, who had lived in Applewood for about a year, said they had moved there because of the library, game room and fitness room, which shrunk or disappeared in the last six months. They said they’d had felt a closure coming since the fall, and residents had seen people checking out the property.

With the April 1 notice, the property met the 30 day window required by state law when a landlord sells a building, but residents said it didn’t feel like enough time to make the move.

Several residents told Salem Reporter that moving their belongings is costing them around $400.

Resident Richard Johnson described the 30-day notice as “unconscionable” for the impact on his neighbors with disabilities.

“We just didn’t get the word until the last minute,” he said. “For senior citizens to find a place, the money involved. Moving costs, down payments, it’s a bunch of crap. And it really hurts us here,” he said.

Wednesday morning, with less than two weeks to go before the facility closed its doors, three residents met with Salem Reporter in the lobby. They gave friendly waves to staff and to passing neighbors.

They said they loved the local staff, and that the newest manager who started in March had “done a great job” but didn’t have a chance to save the facility.

Karen Jobbins said she didn’t move to Applewood, or Salem, by choice. She moved from New Hampshire in 2011, after the death of her husband..

Jobbins said the biggest loss will be the relationships she’s built at Applewood.

“This is my family, you’re losing that. And the staff are like my kids,” she said. 

“They said we could move to a Sapphire in Portland, my daughter said ‘Absolutely not,’ Jobbins said. The other two residents agreed. 

“I’ll never go to another Sapphire, ever,” one said.

Outside Applewood Retirement Community on Wednesday, April 17. The facility will close at the end of the month (Abbey McDonald/ Salem Reporter)

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-575-1251

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.