Durham residents demand action as the deadline to vacate their homes looms

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- About a dozen families are less than two weeks away from being kicked out of their homes in northwest Durham.

Residents received a letter at the end of November notifying them they had until Dec. 31 to find a new place to live. The properties on Buchanan Boulevard are being sold and renovated.

Many of the families have called Braswell Properties home for decades and said the news came as a shock.

On Monday, an estimated 70 residents and community members spoke out against the action at the units.

"I am very hurt and I am very upset," said Lathonia Roberts, a resident at the property for 18 years.

Some of the residents are low-income, elderly, disabled, and have young children, which makes finding a new home quickly more difficult.

"In less than 10 days, we are considered homeless," one resident said.

On Monday, residents and the community presented a list of six demands including that the previous owner covers moving costs and issues reimbursements for repairs and that the new owner gives more time. They also asked for the city to make direct repairs to the buildings to make them safe while the residents find new homes. They asked for a response from the landlords and city by Wednesday.

Charles Bulthuis, the owner of the new property management company told ABC11 that the units need more than $700,000 worth of repairs.

"When we take over a property, we want that property to be something that anybody would be proud to live in those properties. Right now are not in that kind of condition," he said. "The basis of my company is to buy properties that are in disrepair, fix them up and offer them to Section Eight voucher holders"

His company, Reformation Asset Management, issued the letters on Nov. 29, but he said residents were notified before that.

"I can't control the calendar. What I do control is the amount of time we gave them, which we started talking to them seven weeks ago. Why didn't any of them come to us in that seven-week period? Why can't they answer that?" he said.

Bulthuis said his company is willing and trying to work with residents to help them find alternative properties and could even assist in waiving application fees. He pointed to helping one resident this afternoon find an alternate apartment and apply for public assistance.

He said while more notice has been given to other residents in the past, he claimed there are repercussions by the city for allowing a longer time. Bulthuis said the new owners could face fines and violations for deferred maintenance from previous owners.

"The entire process is backward, and that has caused us to change our policy," Bulthuis wrote to ABC11.

For many community members, the dislocation of the residents at Braswell Properties represents a larger issue of affordable housing throughout the Triangle.

"This is not only happening to you, this is happening to people all around Durham and it is very important that you are standing up and saying that it's wrong," said Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, a local church leader.

The Trinity Ave Presbyterian Church created a community fund to help support relocation expenses for the Durham residents. Individuals can donate to it by selecting tenant support at this site: https://www.trinityave.org/giving.
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