Another day in Pierce County, another example of the hot rental market and advantageous developers potentially pushing low-income renters into uncertainty.
First, we had the Tiki Apartments in Tacoma. Now, the troubling trend takes us to Parkland and the newly renamed Hudson Court Apartments.
It’s there that 33-year-old Angie McCarville lives in a two-bedroom apartment with her son, Jonah, who she says was recently diagnosed with autism.
Last week, McCarville and other residents at the complex received surprise notices from Olympic Management Co., the third-party property-management company that now oversees the property.
The letter, provided to The News Tribune by residents, indicated that the complex had recently been purchased, and its new owners have changed its name — from Terri Court Apartments to Hudson Court Apartments.
It also informed them that a renovation effort would require that “at some point in the next five months, each unit will have to vacate so we can perform our renovation work.”
The renovations, the letter said, are estimated to take “45 days per unit.” It also informed McCarville and other residents that Olympic Management “ would be happy to talk to you about applying for one of the new renovated units when the time comes.”
Understandably, the development has left McCarville and others at the Hudson Court Apartments uneasy about what the future might hold.
Mostly, they worry about whether they’ll soon be forced to find a new place to live in a rental market that’s increasingly inhospitable to renters in their precarious financial predicament.
More than anything, that's the story that seems destined to repeat itself again and again. And that's what this column is about.
Where do low-income renters go when the market pushes them out, and as cities, municipalities, and communities how do we respond accordingly?
“For me it’s very shocking, to say the least. My worries and concerns and everything have just gone through the roof. I don’t know where I would go or even if it’s possible to find somewhere unless it’s way, far away,” said McCarville, who currently rents a two-bedroom apartment month-to-month at Hudson Court for $750.
“We have nowhere to go, literally. So I’m terrified,” McCarville said.
Like other month-to-month tenants at Hudson Court, her situation is amplified by a limited or fixed income. Since Jonah’s diagnosis, McCarville, a former courtesy clerk at Safeway, says she’s been unable to work, forced instead to care for her son because daycare is no longer an option.
“Somehow I’ve managed to make it, whether it’s help from (her son’s) dad sometimes or help from the church,” McCarville said. “But … if (rent goes up) it’s not going to be workable.”
Jennifer Ray is also a resident at the Hudson Court Apartments. The 35-year-old shares a one-bedroom apartment with her boyfriend and three children, ranging in age from 7 to 15. They also rent month-to-month and pay $700, she said.
Ray works in the Home Depot lumber department. Her boyfriend is a chef at a bar in Sumner. Even with two incomes, the family is afraid that, whenever the time comes, they won’t be able to afford a move and will be forced into homelessness.
“I have not-the-best credit. Because of my ex-husband, I have an eviction, so it’s nearly impossible for me to find anything. I’ve been looking, and I can’t find anything,” Ray said. “I just go to work and home. To work and home. I guess I’m just going to go to work and out to the parking lot because I have nowhere to go.”
“I only have like $800 saved. There’s no way,” the mother of three said of the cost of moving. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, where I’m going to go."
The concerns, while largely based on a raft of unknowns at this point, are understandable and feel increasingly common.
So, too, does the Puget Sound-area economic factors that created them.
According to publicly available documents, the apartment complex was recently purchased for $2.4 million by Hudson Court LLC, which is registered to Steven Fischer, a Seattle-based broker and Puget Sound-area developer.
It’s unclear precisely what Fischer’s plan is. Multiple attempts to reach him and Olympic Management Co. were unsuccessful.
But to add fuel to the speculation fire, residents at the Hudson Court Apartments are looking about a mile down the road to the similarly named Heather Court Apartments.
That property was purchased in January 2017 by an LLC Fischer also happens to be the registered agent of.
At the time, it sold for $1.9 million. A little over a year later, Fischer’s LLC sold the property for $4.3 million, according to records from the Pierce County Assessor Treasurer’s office.
Rents at the Heather Court Apartments now range from $925 to $1,125 a month.
A similar spike, according to 45-year-old Tajha Ekstrand, who has lived at Hudson Court Apartments since 2013 with her two kids, would be too much to take.
“It’s almost a worst nightmare. I’ve been here so long not because I’ve wanted to stay but because it’s affordable,” Ekstrand said. “Our kids are our priority. We make sure they have a roof over their head, the bills are paid, and they have the things they need, food in their mouth. I’ll starve before my kids go without.
“I hate this little, tiny apartment, but it’s something. And now we’ve got to worry about this?”
Apparently, yes. And, unfortunately — as long as rents stay high, developers stay eager to take advantage of them, and affordable housing units remain far too few — the tenants at Hudson Court likely won’t be the last caught in the middle.
Outside McCarville’s apartment Tuesday afternoon, a gaggle of kids hung on the apartment complex’s aging big toy. Inside, McCarville tried to calm Jonah, who she said was picking up on her high level of stress.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized. “He is feeling everything for me, and I’ve been very tense.
“I’ve worked my whole life. I didn’t know I was going to have a son with severe autism. This is not what I foresaw, but it is what it is. I just want somewhere to sleep and be safe.”
It sure doesn’t feel like too much to ask.