Boise & Garden City

Tough calls for Glenbrook Apartments tenants in Boise, who are being forced to vacate

Dhan Subedi flipped through sheets of apartment listings on Thursday, 15 days before the deadline for her four-person household to vacate Glenbrook Apartments. She’d circled and called the most affordable units in Boise. The earliest one would be available was Oct. 15, nearly a week after her deadline to leave a one-bedroom, $575-a-month apartment.

Her 13-month-old son, Kaden, rolled around the floor at the feet of her mother, Mina Subedi. The families of both Dhan and her husband, Prem Subba, are Bhutanese, though Dhan was born during her family’s two-decade stay at a refugee camp in Nepal. Subba’s was one of thousands of Nepalese-speaking families evicted from the country.

Located at the corner of South Curtis Road and Cassia Street, the family’s sparse Glenbrook unit is close to the Boise Airport, where Subba works, and State Street, where Subedi works at a market. It’s also close to the former Boise International Market, where the couple owned the Bhutanese and Nepali grocery market Ghorka Store, which burned along with the rest of the market earlier this month.

Subedi said she planned to apply for the Oct. 15 apartment. At $650 a month, the rent is more expensive but doable for her family. But getting the apartment isn’t guaranteed, especially with approximately 400 people in the 112 Glenbrook units flooding the already tight rental market.

Subedi’s plans if the family isn’t accepted?

“I don’t know. That’s what I’m worried about,” she said. “I don’t want to get homeless.”

Glenbrook has a new owner who wants the units vacated so they can be renovated. If tenants don’t move by their deadlines, the complex managers could begin an eviction process, which would require court approval and a 30-day notice.

Verity Property Management, which controls the complex, could make concessions, including allowing more time for tenants to find housing. So far, Verity has said only that it would consider granting short-term extensions for tenants who had already arranged to move.

Julianne Donnelly Tzul, executive director of refugee advocacy group International Rescue Committee of Boise, said she expects Verity to begin the eviction process as soon as possible.

“(Verity) seems very intent upon it,” Donnelly Tzul said. “It’s a natural next step.”

NEW OWNERSHIP

On July 1, Eagle spouses Mark and Caran Daly and their newly formed company, Cassia Crossing LLC, bought Glenbrook from Vosti Properties of San Francisco. The Dalys dropped the previous property manager, Tablerock Ventures, and hired Verity.

Terms of the sale were not public. The Ada County Assessor’s Office lists the property’s value at nearly $5.4 million, up from $4.5 million in 2014.

Lynn Fender, Verity vice president, told the Statesman last week that the new owners bought Glenbrook as an investment property, planning large-scale interior and exterior renovations that would allow them to raise rents from $575 for one-bedroom apartments and $650 for two-bedroom units to about $900 and $1,000, respectively.

To clear the apartments, Verity notified month-to-month tenants that their leases would not be renewed, giving them 30 days to vacate. Fender said about 80 percent of the 112 units were on month-to-month leases. Other residents were told their longer-term leases wouldn’t be renewed when they expired, she said.

The majority of Glenbrook tenants are refugees. The notices drew criticism from representatives of churches, refugee resettlement and advocacy groups, and the Intermountain Fair Housing Council, all saying that 30 days wasn’t enough time for 112 households to find new housing.

Advocates are planning to protest at Glenbrook at 11 a.m. Saturday. A Facebook events page for the protest recommends picketers bring signs reading “Don’t tread on me, Verity,” “Greed won’t succeed” and “People before profits.” Nearly 20 Facebook users had remarked that they were attending on the protest page by Friday at noon.

Neither Verity nor the Dalys responded to messages seeking comment.

LEGAL CONCERNS

More than 100 Glenbrook tenants attended a meeting last week to learn about their rights and to provide information to the advocacy group most likely to take legal action, Intermountain.

Zoe Ann Olson, the council’s executive director, said Verity violated landlord-tenant law by issuing 30-day notices to some tenants with longer leases. Fender claimed that didn’t happen.

Olson also said her staff documented “disparate impact” against groups based on race, national origin, color, religion, sex, family status or disability. As defined by the Fair Housing Act, that could lead to separate complaints.

Past management ignored or failed to completely resolve complaints about mold, cockroach and spider infestations, and other maintenance issues, according to residents and their representatives. One unit had a sink removed for repair, but it was never replaced, Olson said. Verity has started renovating the roofs, and Olson said some tenants could see light shining through holes in their ceilings where work was being done. One tenant received an electrical shock from a stove, she said.

“I could go on and on,” Olson said. “It’s sad. There’s some pretty bad, pervasive problems.”

Olson said she wouldn’t reveal the council’s legal strategy. She did say, however, that the council is assisting 47 families and requesting that Verity grant tenants more time and pay remediation for past violations. The council also is working to ensure tenants don’t pay for damages they didn’t cause and don’t get their credit records dinged.

“My hope is the housing provider will do right by them,” Olson said.

Subba said he’s counting on council attorneys to find a way to give his family more time to relocate.

“I’m 100 percent hoping they will help me,” he said.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT

The IRC and at least a handful of other refugee organizations and churches are working to find temporary or permanent housing for Glenbrook tenants. The committee is collecting donations to help tenants pay for deposits and rent at their next apartments.

Donnelly Tzul said an IRC crew of volunteers and staff canvassed Glenbrook and offered help to tenants in 75 of the 112 units. All 31 households accepting the commission’s offer were matched with volunteers, she said.

Tenants in 44 units said they had other plans or declined the help.

Subedi declined, saying IRC offered to help land an apartment outside of the family’s price range.

“I’m paying almost $600 here. Just because you say you can find an apartment for $800 doesn’t help, “ she said.

The IRC is also seeking concessions from Verity, including expediting deposit repayments to help tenants cover deposits and first month’s rent at new apartments, Donnelly Tzul said.

“If their goal is a quick turnaround, they should facilitate that by returning deposits quickly,” she said.

The IRC also is asking Verity not to charge against tenant deposits for damage that will be replaced by the renovation.

“If you’re going to rip out the carpet, why charge for carpet cleaning?” she said.

STUDENT DISRUPTIONS?

A stone’s throw from Glenbrook lies Borah High School, where all incoming refugee high school students in Boise attend as part of the Boise School District’s bridge program.

Rebecca Woodland, a social worker at Borah, said the district is helping students and their families contact groups that are helping tenant families.

About 20 Borah students live at Glenbrook, Woodland said, and an undetermined number of residents also attend its feeder elementary and junior high schools.

Students in the bridge program will continue to be enrolled as long as they remain in the district, Woodland said. Refugee students who have been in the district for longer than two years can either attend their nearest school or apply for open enrollment in order to remain at Borah, or select another school, she said.

The district is bracing for an unusually high number of open enrollment applications, Woodland said.

“We’re trying to decide how to handle this,” she said. “We don’t know what the scope will look like yet.”

Changing schools would be particularly jarring for refugee students, especially those in special English programs, Woodland said. But many have come from war-torn countries and are veterans at dealing with hardship and change, she said.

“These are some of the most resilient students I’ve ever met,” she said. “They’ve been through things I can’t even fathom. No matter what happens, they are survivors.”

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