Residents of an Arlandria affordable apartment complex say the new owner is drastically, and illegally, raising rent and not notifying tenants within 60 days.
Potomac West Apartments LLC bought the four-building, 60-unit apartment complex in June. Last month, residents with expiring leases were notified via letter of a rent increase.
“We just wanted to say thank you for being a wonderful resident of Potomac West Apartments,” begins an Aug. 1 letter to a resident. “We are planning on upgrading the property to include new washing and drying machines, renovated laundry rooms, landscaping upgrades and much more.”
The property manager then reminded residents in the letter that they must provide a 60-day notice if they are going to vacate.
Residents protested the action on Tuesday afternoon with a rally organized by Tenants and Workers United (TWU). The property is directly across the street from Housing Alexandria’s massive affordable apartment complex development at the corner of Mount Vernon Avenue and Glebe Road.
Jose Coca saw his rent increase by more than $500. The 85-year-old custodian at the Pentagon has lived on the property for more than 30 years and said that no improvements have been made to the property.
“When we go to the leasing office about a maintenance issue, they don’t pay attention to us,” Coca said.
Medical assistant Soraida Cruz has lived in her two-bedroom apartment for 18 years. She said her rent is being increased from $1,498 to $1,725 per month, and that Potomac West Apartments and property manager Chapman Management are not responsive.
“It hurts,” Cruz said. “It really does. I’m the only one working. If we had better conditions, paying less than what they are raising right now, I would continue living here, but it’s tough.”
Cruz also said that the buildings have rodent and maintenance issues that residents pay out of pocket to fix.
Larisa Zehr, an attorney from Legal Aid Justice Center, said that the new apartment building owners are breaking the law by not giving tenants at least 60 days notice of a rent increase.
“This makes common sense and it’s a basic protection for tenants,” Zehr said. “That did not happen here. As this area sees increased economic interest, we’re seeing this pattern developers are hiking rents and driving out long term stable families. This is purely profit-driven. We see rents increase without any improvement to living conditions.”
Zehr continued, “Potomac West Apartments is intended to be long-term affordable housing, which is subsidized by the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program. That means the owner has to cap rent at 60% of area median income. In Northern Virginia, as low income people are pushed out and displaced by wealthier households, that number keeps going up. The cap is not low enough to protect working class families like the families in this neighborhood.”
TWU mailed two letters to the property manager and owners asking for a sit-down to discuss rent increases and tenant needs. They did not receive a response.
“I know it’s not easy to be here after you work two jobs, after you cook for your family,” TWU Executive Director Evelyn Urritria told the protestors. “You are here because you care about your housing situation. It’s unfair what’s happening, it’s unjust what’s happening.”
Potomac West Apartments LLC and Chapman Management did not return calls for comment.
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