GARNER, North Carolina (WTVD) --Dozens of tenants at Forest Hills Apartments in Garner were given the gift of time on Wednesday, as residents were told they have until June 15 to find another home where public assistance would be honored.
"It's the difference between homelessness and a chance of finding a place," resident Joyce Mosley, who's lived at Forest Hills for 30 years, lamented to ABC11. "I understand a lot of people want money. I don't want money. I wanted time."
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Mosley and her neighbors had feared the worst after being notified earlier this month that their public assistance would no longer be honored starting the first of April.
Wake County commissioners, local leaders, and housing authority representatives met with residents Wednesday evening.
"There is a short and critical period of time to find alternative housing for these families, many of whom are at risk of not having roofs over their heads," said Sig Hutchinson, Wake County Board Chairman. "Wake County is helping bring all of the partner agencies together to give these residents direct access to the experts and resources they need during this transition."
Eller Capital Partners, a Chapel Hill-based developer, bought the Forest Hills complex in February and announced plans to renovate the property and raise rent prices to "market rates."
"I want to tell you what these new owners did was ruthless," Mosley added. "If it wasn't for [ABC11], in two days I'll be out in the woods.
The new deadline, pushed back to June 15, comes after multiple ABC11 reports and residents' appeals to Garner and Wake County officials.
Dave Layfield, CEO of Affordable Housing Online, said "It would appear this displacement is unlawful." Layfield profiled Forest Hills and wrote this FAQ on the rights and benefits tenants have.
"I strongly encourage existing tenants not move until they consult with HUD about their rights," Layfield said. "Very often, new owners of Project-Based Section 8 properties are unaware of the regulations and protections afforded their tenants."
Basic Property Information: corporate registration
Registered agent: Daniel Eller and his NC entities
Eller Capital Partners
Affordable housing info for Wake County
Raleigh Housing Authority and Section 8
"It could be completely innocent," Layfield said. "Sometimes, purchasers just ignore the law in an attempt to get higher-rent-paying tenants into their new investment. It could be this is their first experience with Project-Based Section 8 and are unfamiliar with the Uniform Relocation Act requirements associated with the program."
Layfield said that under current law, tenants must receive notice that the owner is not renewing a subsidy contract with the government one year prior to the contract expiration.
"If tenants did not receive such a notice," he said. "My understanding is the owner must continue charging the tenant only the amount they paid under the HAP contract until proper notice has been sent," and the one-year waiting period has expired.
ORIGINAL STORY: GARNER RESIDENTS FACE SEVERE RENT HIKE, EVICTION
"42 U.S.C. Section 1437 (8)(a) established the notice requirement," Layfield offered. "(8)(b) of the same paragraph establishes that if the required notice is not sent, the owner 'may not evict the tenants or increase the tenant's rent payment until such time as the owner has provided the notice and one year has elapsed.' So, if the previous owner did not send the proper notice at least one year ago, the lease termination letter ... is not in compliance with the statute."
Layfield encouraged tenants to see whether they're eligible for Tenant Protection Vouchers, which he says "effectively gives them a portable housing voucher that they can use at their current property to pay the increased rent or take to another property."
Sonia Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Raleigh Housing Authority, says landlords across the city and county can help alleviate the stress by choosing to accept the vouchers and Section 8 subsidies.
For more information, visit rhaonline.com
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