Gilliard comes to the aid of residents

West Ashley apartment investors make concessions for Section 8 tenants

By David Slade
Aug 26 2015 4:13 pm
http://www.postandcourier.com/

Dozens of low-income tenants at two West Ashley apartment complexes will be allowed to stay through May, rather than having to find new homes right away, following an agreement with the Beverly Hills investors who bought the buildings.

Most tenants using the federal rental subsidies known as Section 8 vouchers had been told at the end of July to move out within 30 days, after California-based Latitude Management Real Estate Investors bought the 1960s-era Charleston Arms and Georgetown Apartments for $18.7 million.

Following an Aug. 16 story in The Post and Courier and a S.C. Human Affairs Commission complaint filed by a disabled tenant, state Rep. Wendell Gilliard met with apartment management company Trademark Residential and worked out a deal.

“I just put out a plea to them, and I thought they were very cooperative,” said Gilliard, D-Charleston. “It shows what happens when you sit down with people and at least try, and talk to them eye to eye.”

Trademark Residential agreed to allow the Section 8 tenants to stay until May 2016, although they can leave earlier if they want to. In the meantime, the Charleston Housing Authority agreed to a $25 monthly rent increase for tenants on month-to-month leases, and the Human Affairs Commission agreed to the compromise.

“I think it shows willingness on the owners’ part to resolve this amicably,” said Don Cameron, executive director of the authority.

Section 8 tenants pay 30 percent of their income toward rent, but many have little or no income, so the rent increase will be primarily funded with public housing money.

Without the agreement dozens of families that rely on Section 8 vouchers would have quickly had to find new homes from among the limited number of participating landlords in the Charleston area. Landlords don’t have to participate in the program, which allows low-income renters to choose where to live with the help of subsidies rather than living in publicly-owned housing projects.

“If all of a sudden 34 families are looking for housing, that would not be helpful,” Cameron said. “These are low-income folks with no disposable income to speak of.”

Many landlords don’t accept Section 8 because there are limits on the rent they can charge. For example, the maximum Section 8 rent including all utilities for a one-bedroom apartment in the Charleston area is $696.

Reynaldo Acosta, a 51-year-old Charleston Arms resident who pays his rent with a Section 8 voucher and requires a visiting nurse to help with daily tasks. Acosta said there was little chance he could relocate in a month.

“When I read the story in The Post and Courier I was moved, and wanted to intervene,” Gilliard said. “You’re talking about people who are disabled, veterans and seniors.”

Gilliard asked Trademark Residential to give tenants a year to move, and to pay their moving expenses and help them find new homes. The extension through May, with a $25 rent increase, was the compromise.

Trademark Residential President Ed Batchelor did not respond to an email seeking comment, and the company has previously declined to comment.

“We believe this is a fair resolution for all parties,” Batchelor wrote in a letter to Gilliard on Thursday.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552

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