Garner residents face severe rent hike, eviction

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Joyce Mosley is disabled and unable to work. The new owner plans to raise her rent exponentially.

The Forest Hills Apartments were built on Garner's 7th Avenue back in 1982. Now, a new owner has purchased the property -- investing in the complex by renovating the units.

In a statement to ABC11, Eller Residential Living said after buying the property in February "the company determined that many years of neglect and disrepair has contributed to unacceptable, substandard living conditions for many residents of the apartment community."

It would be good news for many of the long-time residents here. But they say they're now being pushed out.

Tuesday night, they marched from their homes down the street to Town Hall to plead for town council's help.

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"I found out of the blue with no warning that everybody out here was being evicted," said Joyce Mosley. She's one of the 100-plus residents of Forest Hills who received a letter from EPC LLC of Chapel Hill.

In the letter, EPC informed resident their leases were being terminated and government housing subsidies that residents such as Mosley use to pay their rent are no longer being accepted.

In its statement to ABC11, Eller Residential Living said:

The scope of the required renovations require that the apartment units be vacated prior to the commencement of any work inside of the apartment units. Eller Residential Living understands that there are many long term residents of Forest Hills, including some who depend on housing assistance programs. Although Eller Residential Living does not participate in housing assistance programs, the company is doing everything that it can to help its residents find alternative housing prior to the start of the project.

Mosley, disabled and unable to work, has lived in Forest Hills for over 30 years. She pays $68 a month now with section 8 housing subsidies. On April 1, her rent balloons to $761. Money that Mosley would have to pay out of pocket. Money that Mosley says she doesn't have and has no way to get.

"I have nothing, I have nowhere to go, no one to turn to," Mosely said. "And on the 1st, I will have to move into the woods."

Tuesday night, Mosely's Forest Hills neighbors, all facing similar fates, marched into Garner's Town Council meeting voicing their frustrations.

"It's not fair, how nobody's getting treated. It's not easy, it's hard. It's not easy. We (are) a family," said Shalarnda Gardner, a Forest Hills resident.

"It should not be that easy for someone to come and just say OK, I have enough money to buy this property. I want everybody out," said resident Cecilia Ebron.

Longtime community advocate Ocatavia Rainey took the podium and called out Garner's mayor by name.

"This is a crisis in Garner, North Carolina. Your town, Ronnie Williams. So, you must find funding in your budget to help the residents," Rainey said.

It was Garner's town manager who did the talking when the meeting broke into recess. Rodney Dickerson told ABC11 he was uncertain whether the town could offer any recourse to Forest Hills residents.

"It's a private property matter and so our hands are tied in a lot of ways," Dickerson said. "But we will reach out to the owners and see if there's anything we can do."

Residents say they have little or no options for housing. They say waiting lists for subsidized low-income housing are several years long.

The group is planning to meet on March 29 at Wake Baptist Grove Baptist Church at 302 E. Main St. in Garner to discuss affordable housing solutions with interested town council members and Wake County commissioners.

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