Who’s Knocking?

 

UPDATE: 2 pm

I just received a call from Covenant Capital Group management and was told that, after Monday,  all tenants were given the chance to extend their leases through May 31st. I’m thankful for this compassionate response, and pray that tenants are able to find affordable housing, good schools and loving community wherever they go.

When I was little, we sometimes got very quiet (pretending nobody was home) if an unknown religious person came to the door unexpectedly. This week, I was on the other side of the door, knocking at Covenant Capital Group. Here’s why:

Tenants of Premier West Apartments are being evicted at the end of their leases, due to the purchase and subsequent upgrades/renovations of the building by Covenant Capital Group. Among their current tenants are families who’ve lived there for years, faithfully paying rent they could afford. Some tenants receive Section 8 assistance. Others do not.

Tenants are asking for four things:

  • That Covenant Capital extend all leases to June 1st, allowing children to complete their school year;
  • That renovations be done in such a way that tenants could stay at Premier West – not necessarily in their current apartments;
  • That rent is not raised more than $40 per month in the lease term, since Covenant Capital has stated the desire to provide affordable housing; and
  • That Covenant Capital would allow Section 8 vouchers to continue in the new building.

Why do I care? My church home is in the neighborhood, and children from the afterschool program (now closed) have lived there. One of our long-term members now lives in White Bluff, commuting to McDonalds on Charlotte Pike – 30 miles away. Working-class housing has been all but wiped out of the Nations neighborhood where 61st United Methodist Church is located. Where are people to live?

I went to a protest at Covenant Capital Group to stand with tenants, and ask Covenant Capital to do the right thing. After much knocking, calling and waiting, the group needed to leave due to after-school pickups. I, in my clergy collar, stayed behind, knocking, calling, and sending messages through their website. After a good while, management came and spoke with me:

  • Since leases end at varying times, each tenant must speak with property management to negotiate a new move-out date;
  • Tenants will not be allowed to remain during renovations due to potential safety hazards;
  • Since the renovated apartments will be rented to middle-income people, they are very certainly going to be more than $40 per month additional than existing leases; and
  • Section 8 will not be determined until renovations are done which are expected to be completed this fall.

I gave this news with Austin Sauerbrei of Open Table Nashville. While encouraged that I was able to speak with management, he shared that tenants have already gone to the property manager, only to be told the decision is in the hands of the owner (Covenant Capital Group). So, it seems this has become a circular discussion. I’ve offered to go with tenants to property management, with Austin, to follow management’s direction. I’ll write about what happens next.

In the meantime, “act justly…love mercy… walk humbly with your God.”*
Neelley

*Micah 6:8

 

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About N. Neelley Hicks

A pioneer in the use of ICTs for global communications, Neelley inspires others through building and teaching solutions that are affordable, appropriate and available within remote settings - particularly in Africa and the Philippines.
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