‘They’re going to be in the streets.’ 177 in low-income apartments must leave homes

‘They’re going to be in the streets.’ 177 in low-income apartments must leave homes
Lake Arbor Apartment Complex tenants say they have been complaining for years about what they call unlivable conditions.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Nearly 200 tenants in a large west Charlotte apartment complex that has housed the poor must leave their homes, many of them within 30 days.

The owner of the Lake Arbor Apartments on Tuckaseegee Road near Interstate 85 is notifying renters they need to relocate, according to a letter sent to Charlotte City Council.

The letter says 78 of the 177 occupied units have expired or otherwise invalid leases and must be out in 30 days. All other tenants must leave by Dec. 31.

Lake Arbor is among a shrinking number of low-cost apartment buildings across Charlotte for the formerly homeless, families with extremely low incomes and others with limited options for housing. Rents are typically under $900 a month.

The complex received significant attention from city leaders and housing activists earlier this year after tenants alleged that mold, roaches and rats had possibly compromised their health.

City code enforcement officials had ordered improvements after inspecting units and finding homes with no working heat or air conditioning, decaying floors, exposed electrical wires and other unsafe and squalid conditions. The city has said the repairs were underway.

But the landlord now plans to renovate the entire property, according to the letter to city officials.

Robert Dawkins of Action NC, a social justice group that has launched an effort to improve living conditions at Lake Arbor, said many of the residents being displaced could wind up homeless.

Some are behind on their rent payments. Others do not have good credit and would likely have trouble finding another landlord willing to rent to them.

“They’re going to be in the streets,” Dawkins said.

City officials have been working with Lake Arbor’s owners daily for more than a week to minimize displacement, according to the city’s letter, provided by council member Braxton Winston.

“The city remains committed to protecting the quality of life of all residents,” the letter states. “This effort between the city and Lake Arbor property owners is intended to ensure that tenants are not subject to undue hardship due to abrupt displacement, and are aware of their rights and resources as they seek to secure new housing.”

Winston refused an interview request, saying he did not want to comment before tenants received notification.

Keith Richardson, assistant director for the city’s housing and neighborhood services, refused comment and referred questions to Lake Arbor’s owners.

A woman who answered the phone at the Lake Arbor business office Tuesday afternoon took down a reporter’s phone number but would not answer questions. She said someone would call the Observer, but they did not immediately do so.

Dawkins said the events at Lake Arbor shows how the city remains vexed by a severe shortage of affordable housing, he said.

City Council last week approved spending $17.7 million for eight affordable housing projects.

But Charlotte officials have said the city needs 34,000 more housing units for low-income renters.

Dawkins said the city has failed to documents how many affordable are being lost to redevelopment and other factors.

“While the city is busy patting itself on the back, people are still hurting,” he said. “Charlotte needs to get its priorities straight and come up with a strategy that keeps people from being displaced.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

This work was made possible in part by grant funding from Report for America/GroundTruth Project and the Foundation For The Carolinas.

Copyright 2019 The Charlotte Observer. All rights reserved.