Good news, bad news for Garner tenants facing eviction

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Glimmer of hope for Garner residents facing eviction.

Dozens of tenants at Forest Hills Apartments in Garner are fearing the worst after being notified last week that their public assistance would no longer be honored starting the first of April.

"It should not be that easy for someone to come and just say, 'OK, I have enough money to buy this property, I want you out,'" one woman told town leaders at a meeting last night.

At least one expert says it may not be that easy.

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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."

RESOURCES:
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."

ORIGINAL STORY: GARNER RESIDENTS FACE SEVERE RENT HIKE, EVICTION

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.

"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."

That's something Wake County Commissioner Jessica Holmes said county attorneys are also looking at, but she said the first step is for the county to work with the landlord to offer an extension of existing rent subsidies through the end of the school year.

"That's one of the real tragedies here," Holmes said. "The kids and how this will affect their performance in school."

64-year-old tenant Joyce Mosley, who is disabled, says she may be another tragedy.

"Wednesday morning," she said, "I had a full tank of gas. My neighbor Keith and I drove this town over. Nobody has anything available. On the first, I will have to move into the woods."

But it's not just the fear of having to leave; it's the worry of where people will go. Local experts say there is a stark shortage of subsidized housing units in Wake County.

Debra King, Executive Director at CASA, a non-profit dedicated to finding affordable housing for people who need it, says their waiting list is 1,000 people long. What's more, King says her organization runs a 1 percent vacancy rate; there's very little turnover.

King said the problem with housing vouchers in general is that they're hard to get in the first place and that many landlords don't take them. But King says according to local data, 43 percent of renters have difficulty affording their homes. She said in Wake County, the average price for a modest, two bedroom apartment is $918. The average renter, on the other hand, can only afford $750, according to NCHousing.org.

Wake County has set up a special task force to confront the lack of affordable housing in the area. The group meets Thursday night; for members, Forest Hills will be a jarring reminder of why they're there.

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