Boise & Garden City

Boise apartment complex renovations leave tenants scrambling to find new housing

Most of the tenants living in the 112-unit Glenbrook Apartments on the Boise Bench have been notified that they must pack up and find new housing by the end of the month.

Community advocates, including John Thompson, pastor of Cornerstone Community Church, say the move will hurt low-income tenants, including refugees, people receiving housing subsidies and those with disabilities.

“I don’t know if ownership or management fully thought through the ramifications of what it means to release those people,” Thompson told the Idaho Statesman. “Whether it’s legal or not, I think the impact of their decision should be taken into consideration.”

Near the intersection of North Curtis Road and West Cassia Street, the apartments were bought by California company Cassia Crossing as an investment on July 24, said Lynn Fender, vice president of Verity Property Management, which was hired to manage the complex after the sale.

The new owner has already begun exterior renovations as part of a plan to upgrade the units and increase monthly rents — currently $575 for one-bed units and $650 for two-bed apartments — to between $900 and $1,000, Fender said.

On average, one-bedroom apartments in Ada County rented for $631 during the first quarter of 2015, according to the Southwest Idaho Chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers. Two-bedroom apartments averaged $721.

The next step is to renovate the interiors, which means clearing tenants by not renewing leases, she said. About 80 percent of the tenants have month-to-month leases, she said. The rest have multimonth leases that won’t be renewed when they expire in the coming months.

Fender said Verity might make exceptions for tenants who need short periods of extra time to complete moves. For example, if a tenant signs a lease elsewhere but must wait for 10 days while the new dwelling is available, Verity might let them stay at Glenbrook past the Oct. 1 deadline.

Verity will not extend leases, she said.

“We will work with people as much as we can,” Fender said. “But this was an investment purchase for our owner. The thought process from the beginning was to renovate property and place property at higher rental value.”

The Intermountain Fair Housing Council, a Boise nonprofit and fair-housing advocacy group, received a record number of calls Wednesday from Glenbrook tenants and others concerned about them, Executive Director Zoe Ann Olson said.

The council’s attorneys were reviewing tenant reports to determine whether the tenants have legal recourse, Olson said. Among other concerns, the council said some long-term lease holders received the same 30-day notice as the month-to-month tenants, counter to Verity’s claim that those tenants could finish their leases, Olson said.

“What I can say now is the ones we’ve reviewed potentially have fair-housing issues,” Olson said.

The apartment vacancy rate in Ada County was just 3 percent in the first quarter of 2015, according to the property manager association — well below historical averages of 5 percent to 6 percent. Thompson said two refugee families in his congregation — one from Ethiopia and one from the Central African Republic — were scrambling to find housing in a tight rental market.

“We are trying to be that network for them,” Thompson said. “Members of church can probably take them in for a short period of time, but not everybody in that refugee community has that.”

Fender said Verity is subject to the same 30-day notice window as its month-to-month lease tenants.