Senior residents fear rent hikes, homelessness

Photo by Tony Kuklich

Tenants of the Summer Creek Place senior apartment complex say continual rent increases are forcing elderly residents out of their homes.

Senior residents of Oakley’s Summer Creek Place senior apartments are afraid continual rent increases could hurt their already fragile lives, sending some to the streets.

“We are very upset because it’s going to make people homeless,” said resident Diane Spurrier, 61. “It’s pushing people into the street, senior citizens with wheelchairs and walkers. That is all they have. A lot of people don’t have family to go to.”

Residents, many in their 70s, 80s and 90s, and disabled, say rent at the 80-unit, one- and two-bedroom complex on Empire Avenue has steadily risen from around $770 last year, to $970 this month for one-bedroom units, and from the mid-$700s to $1,095 for two-bedroom spaces.

“It’s a sin; it really is,” said fellow resident Margaret Berry, 75. “We have to have money for food, for medical and all that. These are all really old people, so when they paid into social security, it was way back when wages were low, so they don’t have a lot of money. We all make below $38,000 a year.”

The facility is part of the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, which requires tenant income and rent restrictions.

The facility’s monthly rent — dictated by the county’s average median income — can be as high as $1,302 for a studio apartment, $1,395 for a one-bedroom space and $1,674 for a two-bedroom establishment, said Bill Ainsworth of the California State Treasurer’s Office.

Fire and physical inspections of tax credit projects are conducted every three or five years, Ainsworth said.

“The LIHTC program does limit maximum rents, but does not have any restrictions, regulations, policies or procedures regarding rent increases, or the number of increases that can occur throughout a year,” Ainsworth said. “California state tenant/landlord law does require that if an increase is 10% or less, a minimum of a 30-day notice must be given. If an increase is more than 10%, a minimum of a 60-day notice must be given.”

In a written statement provided to The Press, Infinity Management and Investment LLC, the company employed by Summer Creek Associates to manage the property, said the property owners try to keep rent as affordable as possible, but costs are rising.

“The costs to maintain the facilities properly have risen on a year to year basis,” the statement reads. “This rise has required that the rents be brought up to the rent limit that the (United States Department of Housing and Urban Development) has provided. In an effort to progressively catch the rents up to this limit, Summer Creek Village has elected to increase rents quarterly by $50 rather than making the increase all at one time. This increase will max out when the rents reach $1,003 for a one-bedroom and $1,195 for a two-bedroom apartment per the current limits.”

Residents, however, said the hikes will force drastic life changes. Spurrier said she’ll be forced to get a job after 18 years of being on disability. Berry, a realtor, added that her age is catching up with her ability to work.

“I’m a realtor; an old realtor,” she said. “I have been in business a long time, but I can’t handle a lot of transactions because I am not as sharp as I used to be.”

Spurrier and Berry are two of the luckier ones, able to at least consider working. Others can’t say the same. Several tenants are wheelchair-bound, require use of a walker or cane, or are otherwise physically unable to be employed, residents said.

“This is going to put some people on the street,” Berry said. “They only get $1,200 or $1,300 a month from social security.”

With seemingly no other option, residents have pleaded with the facility representatives, city officials and several outside agencies for help, but no help has arrived. The city has little authority to elicit change at the complex.

The status quo leaves many with only one viable option, Berry said: move in with children.

Those without that lifeline, however, face a precarious future, Spurrier said.

“These are 70-, 80-, 90-year-olds in wheelchairs and with walkers,” she said. “What in the world are they going to do with all their belongings, with all their stuff they collected all their life? They just have to move into the streets in their wheelchairs.”