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Dozens of residents forced out of Charlotte neighborhood as new owners raise the rent

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Nick de la Canal
/
WFAE
Dozens of renters living the J.T. Williams neighborhood in north Charlotte are searching for new homes. That's because the community has new owners who plan to renovate the property and nearly double the rent.

Shirlesha Lindsey walked down the narrow sidewalk to the front door of her small, brick, two-bedroom home. The house is typical for the J.T. Williams neighborhood off Statesville Avenue.

Inside, a small living room opened up to a similar-sized kitchen.

Some pots and pans rested on the stove. The oven door sat wide open, warmth emanating from the red hot coil inside.

"This is for heat," she said.

She had the gas turned off last week to save money, because she and her neighbors have been told to start searching for new homes.

"They really want us out." she said. "They said they'll give us our deposit back, but they want us to be moved out."

Lindsey has lived in this rental community with her three children for five years. She pays about $700 a month in rent — or about half the median rent for a two-bedroom in Charlotte. That's affordable for a single mother working as a hotel housekeeper.

But the property changed hands over the summer, and the new owners have plans to renovate the homes and raise rents to between $1,200 and $1,300 a month.

The existing tenants said they have been told to leave.

"I have three kids," Lindsey said. "So like, trying to find somewhere to move right now — Thanksgiving is coming up, Christmas is coming up, like all these holidays. Who has the money to just move like that?"

Shirlesha_Lindsey.jpg
Nick de la Canal
/
WFAE
Shirlesha Lindsey and her dog, Poppy, sit inside their home on Alma Court on Nov. 17, 2022. "We might just have to go to hotel for two months," the single mother of three said. "Because it's hard to find a place in the timeframe that they're trying to give us."

New owners bought the property in June

Property records show the community of about 100 single-family homes and apartments was purchased in June for $8.5 million by companies affiliated with real estate investors Javier Hinojo Jr. and Jeremiah Hancock. Neither responded to requests for comment.

The new property management company, Trademark Residential, began telling residents to leave in September, though the company said they haven't given any hard deadline for residents to move out. They granted some extensions, while also undertaking improvements such as repaving the parking lot, painting homes white and replacing roofs, doors and windows.

"I don't want to say that everybody here is going to end up with the outcome that is their top choice," said Tara Peel, CEO of the Housing Collaborative, which stepped in last month to help residents.

The nonprofit is offering to help them pay security deposits and up to three months' worth of rent for new apartments — or in a worst case scenario, three months at a hotel.

Peel said she expects many residents may not be able to find a new place.

"If they are on a fixed income, like Social Security, then the chances of them finding anything they can afford are very slim. There may be cases where they have to move in with family, they may have to be roommates, they may have to move to a less expensive area," she said.

'They tell us to move tomorrow. Where we going?'

One renter, who didn't want to give her name, said she felt "very overwhelmed" by the situation.

She stood behind her screen door as wind chimes tinkled on her porch.

The woman said her heat hadn't been working since workers redid the roof a few weeks ago. Now she's sick, possibly with the flu, and said she didn't know how she could move without a car.

"I don't want an eviction notice. If you get an eviction notice, you can't move anywhere, so — it's grim, but I mean, it's reality," she said.

Her neighbor, Brenda Montgomery, said she was angry with the new owners for raising rents and pushing her out of her home of four years.

"They tell us to move tomorrow. Where we going?" she asked. "Wouldn't you be angry too?"

She had been looking, but said there were no other apartments in this price range in Charlotte. Even the cheaper apartments she found want her to make at least three times the rent, putting them out of reach.

"They don't want to do nothing for us, I guess because we Black and poor and struggling, ain't got that much income," she said.

Shirlesha Lindsey, the single mother of three, said she was especially worried about the timing of a potential move.

Her kids are in the middle of the school year, with friends and teachers they liked. If they move, they might have to give that up, possibly put their two dogs up for adoption if their new home doesn't allow pets.

"We might just have to go to a hotel for at least two months, you know what I'm saying? Because it's hard to find a place in the timeframe that they're trying to give us," she said.

Lindsey told the property manager she would move out by Dec. 1, but with less than a week to go, she still hadn't found a place.

The city of Charlotte has asked the new owners to give residents more time, though as many as 30 households have been given notices to vacate.

Lindsey hadn't yet received one but worried her family could be next. That could leave them without a home for the holidays.

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Nick de la Canal is a reporter for WFAE covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal