Residents living in the Park Villa Apartment Homes off North Cliff Valley Way in Brookhaven must move out by the end of the month following the sale of the complex to a developer who plans to build luxury townhomes on the property.
At a July 11 meeting under a pavilion at Briarwood Park, representatives from the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, the Latin American Association, Center For Pan Asian Community Services, Los Vecinos de Buford Highway, Cross Keys Sustainable Neighborhood Initiative and Immigrant Hope-Atlanta were on hand to answer residents’ questions and provide resources on how to find a new home.
“I think a lot of them are facing homelessness,” Lindsey Siegel, attorney with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, said in an interview.
Many of the residents living in the complex are Latino and some are undocumented. Siegel listened to and answered questions from many residents for about an hour through a translator, Mara Block, also an attorney at Atlanta Legal Aid Society.
Siegel has worked four years with ALAS. What is happening at Park Villa is new, she said.
“I haven’t seen a situation like this where an entire complex is given 30 days notice,” she said.
Strategic Management Partners on June 20 posted notices on residents’ doors letting them know the complex had been sold. The notice also stated a $399 move-in offer was being offered to move into SMP’s “sister property” at Avenues Eightyfive Apartments located on Northeast Expressway.
On June 23, residents received another notice letting them know the complex had been sold to Taylor Morrison Homes of Georgia LLC. Then, on June 26, they received another notice letting them know they needed to move out by the end of this month. A provision of the lease states if the complex is sold, residents will be given 30 days to move out.
Now many are frantically trying to find a new place to live.
Besides the short notice to move out, several residents complained that the apartment management was telling them they had to pay a full month of rent for July while their leases state that if the apartment is sold and leases are terminated, residents only have to pay half final month’s rent.
The management company was also passing out notices, on red paper and in English only (all other postings were in English and Spanish), telling residents if they did not pay their full July month, they would be docked an extra $100. The notice also states that the company planned to move forward to evict if the full July month rent was not paid and charge the tenant an additional $200 fee to cover legal costs.
“They’re trying to intimidate people, especially because they know some people are undocumented,” said Carrie Cox, who has lived in the apartments for five years. “This is not a humane way to treat people.”
Siegel and Block stressed to the residents that undocumented residents have the same rights as anyone when it comes to housing and their leases are legal documents. In Georgia, landlords are often given the upper hand when it comes to evictions, Siegel said, and she urged residents to pay their rents to avoid eviction notices. She said the management company’s tactics appeared to be “problematic.”
In May, the Brookhaven Zoning Board of Appeals approved a variance to Ardent Companies, a real estate firm, giving them the go-ahead to tear down the complex to make way for a 73-townhome development. Taylor Morrison is the developer and has one other development in the area under construction and another development adjacent to the Park Villa complex with townhomes priced in the high $400,000s.
At the May meeting, resident Melinda Ward tearfully asked the city for help. Rebekah Morris of CPACs organized the July 11 meeting with Ward’s help. Ward said she has applied to several apartments but has not yet found a new place to live for her and her daughter.
Pearl Wilkerson, 88, has lived at Park Villa Apartment Homes in Brookhaven for more than 30 years. She lives on a fixed income and pays $800 a month in rent, which is the standard rent for the Park Villa apartments. Telling someone who has lived in the complex for three decades they have just one month to move out was shocking, she said.
“They done us bad,” Wilkerson said from the living room of her apartment where cardboard boxes were stacked.
Speaking over the roar of a box fan because the air conditioner hasn’t worked for four months, Wilkerson said she wished she had at least been given several months notice to move out, rather than just a few weeks.
“They could have told us at Christmas,” she said. “Now I’m trying to find a place.”
A call to the complex’s office July 12 was not immediately returned. Calls to Neville Allison of Ardent Companies and who lives in Brookhaven and to Taylor Morrison were also not immediately returned.
The Brookhaven Affordable Housing Task Force, created to find ways to help people being displaced due to the city’s rapid development, is scheduled to give its recommendation to the City Council at the July 25 meeting.
UPDATE July 14: Mayor John Ernst said developer Taylor Morrison is now giving residents until Aug. 21 to move out. Read more by clicking here.
UPDATE July 18: A Taylor Morrison representative said payments for rents in July and August are:
o Residents who paid full rent for July will be reimbursed 50 percent
o Residents who did not pay July rent because of confusion will be able to pay 50 percent and late fees will be waived
o All residents offered extension until end of August, and will only owe 50 percent of rent for August if paid by Aug. 5
o Residents will be getting notices in English and Spanish