ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Finding a place to live has been a difficult task for many people lately, especially for residents of the English Gardens Apartments in Roanoke who were told they need to move out by June 30 or their monthly rent will increase by 50%.
Dana Bryant has been living at English Gardens for 11 years, paying rent on time and not really having any problems or any intentions of moving out.
The letter she and about 100 other residents received earlier this year said that English Gardens, managed by Edwin C. Hall Associates, had been purchased by Gardens at Grandin, LLC., who would be renovating the place, increasing the rent, and could terminate the lease of whoever lived there.
Some say this couldn’t have come at a worse time. Inflation and very few rental spaces on the market are making it hard to find a place in Roanoke and surrounding areas.
“I have called, like, 35 apartment complexes and they all say ‘we’re full,’” Bryant said.
She’s living on disability and can’t work. Paying rent was easy when it was about $500, but since getting the notice, she hasn’t found a place in her price range.
“The two I found that were $700 a month said I didn’t make enough money,” said Bryant
English Gardens waived rent for the month of April to help out. Bryant says there were about 100 residents there at the time.
On Wednesday, June 29 — the day before the deadline to move out — more than 40 people were still there, calling around to places like Sterlingwood Apartments
The assistant manager at Sterlingwood, Marquita Saunders, says their phones have been ringing almost non-stop.
“We’re getting a lot of calls from those types of prospects… letting us know that, unfortunately, they have to relocate, so they’re looking for housing immediately, so those are the types of calls we get, not to mention this is our busiest time of the year,” Saunders said.
The City of Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA) sent the following statement to WFXR News about this situation:
The lack of affordable housing in the City of Roanoke is a major issue. When combined with inflation and higher fair market rents that, in turn means increased security deposits, moving is considered a major life crisis. Roanoke City is, unfortunately, experiencing the same housing crisis as much of the nation is experiencing. Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority does not provide emergency housing. We do, however, have an open waitlist for RRHA’s Jamestown Place development now through June 30 at 5:00pm for one, two, three, four, and five bedroom apartments, and encourage those who may need housing to apply here: https://rkehousing.org/housing-options/public-housing/apply-for-housing/. In the near future, our waitlist for Section 8 housing will be opening, so we encourage everyone to keep their eyes out for that announcement that will be published in the Roanoke Times, Roanoke Tribune, our website, and social media channels.
The RRHA also released information regarding public housing:
Our waitlist for public housing tends to stay open for about 10-14 days and after it closes, applicants are sent a letter with next steps, which include eligibility interviews. It takes about 3-6 months, depending on vacancies, from the time the public housing waitlist closes to when a resident is settled in their home. This is an estimate and could vary to be earlier or later.
Bryant’s friend Suzie has been helping her, but she fears for the worst, telling WFXR News she thinks it’s a shame what the new owners of English Gardens are doing.
“I was just shocked to think that somebody would put 100 residents out and only give them three months to find a place,” Suzie said. “Roanoke has a bad homeless situation the way that it is.”
After more than a decade at English Gardens, Bryant is left packing her belongings, continuing to make phone calls, and praying for a miracle.
“I called all over Roanoke, Salem, and Vinton,” Bryant said. “People aren’t moving right now because it’s so expensive.”
According to Bryant and other neighbors at English Gardens, for now, they have no choice but to pay the heightened rent until they find an alternative.
WFXR reached out to Gardens at Grandin about this situation and received the following statement:
Gardens at Grandin, LLC. continues to assist remaining tenants in the move-out process. We are working with other housing complexes and community partners to help current tenants find new homes before construction begins.
Suzie says she and Bryant’s next step will be looking to the city for a change in the housing development system.
Correction: WFXR News reported the following: “Housing authorities say they have waitlists, but it would take three to five years to secure a spot.” This information was not correct from the RRHA and a statement from them has been added to the story.