Many Court Street residents face eviction, have nowhere to go

On Tuesday, eviction notices increased.

The remaining tenants of the Court View apartments in the city center had only three days to move out or face a forced eviction.

But on Friday, 11 of the 19 units in the building, which was acquired for redevelopment, were still occupied, mainly because tenants had nowhere to go, they said.

Fear and chaos permeated the building as residents rushed to put their belongings away and make hasty plans to relocate. Nonetheless, every eviction case will need to be heard by a court before residents can be forced to relocate, which could take days or weeks in some cases.

Those who still linger in their Court View apartments find they are running out of time.

“We’re trying to hold on until they (the developer) negotiate a more level playing field with us,” said Jeff Stout, a Chicago native who has lived in Court View for almost three years. “But they were not willing to negotiate. Everyone is extremely afraid. A lot of people are facing impending homelessness.”

Jeff Stout, resident of Court View Apartment, is forced to move by a developer.  On Tuesday, he hung signs on his window that read

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently extended a federal moratorium on evictions until July 31 to prevent such a general upheaval. But the moratorium only applies to tenants who say they lose their apartment if they have lost income and fallen behind on rents because of the pandemic.

None of Court View’s remaining tenants have reported pandemic-related distress.

Vision & Beyond Capital Investments, a Mount Auburn-based startup that purchased the building at 7 West Court St., initially gave residents 30 days notice to move in May. The developer extended the deadline to July 11 before posting the eviction notices this week.

The remaining residents say they still haven’t had enough time to find new housing as their lives and an entire community are dismantled.

Tim Reed is surrounded by his memories of the Bengals in his Court View Apartments downtown.  Reed, 61, said he plans to live his life in the two-bedroom apartment he has lived in for 19 years.

Trying to find the money

Tim Reed was rummaging through the vast collection of Bengals memorabilia he has collected since childhood when he noticed a football signed by former Bengals player Chad Johnson, still in his display case.

“It’s in perfect condition. I know it’s worth a lot of money. I hate to sell it, but what choice do I have? ” Asked the 61-year-old retired postman as he nervously petted his 16-year-old dog, Shiloh.

Reed, who lives on a fixed income, plans to sell the soccer ball, among other things, in his two-bedroom apartment filled with antiques to raise money for a new apartment.

Reed said he felt “almost desperate” to find an apartment on such a short notice in the tight housing market of the Cincinnati metro area, where the average monthly rent is over $ 1,000, according to the RentCafe market tracker.

“I don’t have a car, so it’s hard for me to get to places outside the city center, and the whole city center costs twice as much for less than half the space as I do. ‘ve been here, “said Reed, who relies on Social Security. pay her rent of $ 630 per month at Court View.

“People say, ‘Why don’t you move somewhere other than downtown? “Well, I’ve looked elsewhere, and they’re also a lot more expensive than I can afford.”

Finding an apartment at any price can be a long and arduous process just because vacant homes fill up so quickly, in part because sky-high housing prices have forced more people to rent.

AFTER: The hot housing market means that rents are also rising.

Stout said the new owners had shown little empathy for the plight of tenants and even removed washers and dryers from the laundry room, a move he said was intended to intimidate residents.

“I was doing the laundry Monday night and forgot about it,” he said. “I went down to the laundry room to pick it up on Tuesday night, and found my clothes thrown on a table, and the washers and dryers were gone. What do you mean?”

Officials at Vision & Beyond, which has acquired 1,200 apartments for about $ 84 million in the Cincinnati area in recent years, declined to comment.

Despite his best efforts, Stout, a former outreach worker at the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library who was also looking for a job, said he had not found a new apartment he could afford.

“There’s nothing in this neighborhood, and there’s nothing in my price range anywhere that’s available right away,” said Stout, who pays $ 700 in rent a month. “We need more time.”

Stout and Reed were among the residents who staged a rally Thursday night to condemn the practices of Vision & Beyond.

Residents of Court View Apartments spoke at a press conference held Thursday by the Court View tenant group.

Even the lucky fight

Sarah Ewing, 37, a former Court View tenant, found new accommodation in about three weeks and got the keys to her apartment in Westwood on July 1.

But the restaurant waitress, who lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Court View with her husband, Drew, their daughter and their two cats, said the family’s new apartment locked them in significantly higher rent at a moment when they still had financial difficulties. .

Like many workers, Ewing and her husband, who both work in restaurants, were laid off during the pandemic and relied on their unemployment checks to pay rent.

“The unemployment checks were never on time, and we had just finished paying off the rent owed when they (Vision & Beyond) took over the building,” Ewing said. “We were finally in a place where we were like, ‘OK, we can finally get back to where we were before the pandemic. Then we had to scramble to find a new apartment

“It’s a two bedroom, a bit bigger than what we had, and there is a pool. But our rent went from $ 605 (per month) to $ 890, not including the extra charges we pay for our cats. “

In addition to a higher rent, Ewing and her husband paid perimeter charges like parking that they didn’t have at Court View.

Ewing, who helped form a tenants’ association to negotiate with the developer, said his family’s unexpected move also forced them to skip the June rent and forfeit their $ 580 security deposit so that they can use the money to cover the cost of their new apartment and moving expenses. .

Ewing said she and other tenants contacted the developer on several occasions for moving assistance to avoid such a scenario.

But repeated phone calls to a number provided on the first notice they received were not returned.

“At first they just ignored us and didn’t want to talk to us. Then after you (The Enquirer) started sniffing, they sent us a letter offering to help.”

A small allowance

Ewing said about a week after receiving the initial 30-day notice, they received another letter from Vision & Beyond offering a $ 300 credit to tenants who have moved to one of the developer’s other properties, or $ 200 if they choose to move elsewhere.

The average rent for the Court View Apartments at 7 W. Court St. is well below the average market rate of $ 1,500 for the city center, making it difficult for residents to be forced to find equally affordable apartments. .

By the end of last week, 12 tenants had each received $ 200 in moving assistance.

In addition, Vision & Beyond returned $ 6,555 in security deposits by check or wire transfer to the same 12 tenants whose rent payments were in order, according to Katy Crossen, a spokesperson for the developer..

But eviction is still looming for many tenants, including Skip Williams, another longtime resident who has lived in Court View for more than two decades.

Skip Williams has lived in Court View for 20 years.

Williams said a group of unknown men entered the Court View building on Tuesday “knocking on doors and threatening residents when they handed over eviction notices.

“They scared quite a few residents,” he said, “including a teenager who was home alone.”

Williams, who is still looking for a new apartment, said he refused to be intimidated by the threat of eviction.

“I don’t care. I don’t care,” Williams said when asked about the possibility of an eviction as he browsed the inventory at Vine Street Vinyl, the supplies store in vinyl graphics where he works on the first floor of his building.

“You can’t put me in this situation and expect me to be gone in 30 days,” he said.

Despite his defiant stance, Williams said he realizes he is unlikely to fight the eviction and continue to enjoy the below-market rents he and his neighbors have been paying for years.

Unlike some states, tenants in Ohio have little protection against developers who buy occupied apartment buildings.

Vision & Beyond CEO Stas Grinberg can be seen on YouTube in a videotaped interview with real estate media Millionacres, touting the climate for developers in the Cincinnati area, which he described as “pro-eviction” .

“The expulsion is not necessarily positive,” Grinberg says in the video. “But from an investor’s perspective, being able to force ownership of your property is important. On those aspects, it’s absolutely phenomenal.”

Court View tenants have argued their case before city council several times over the past month, to no avail.

Board members were quick to point out that they had not approved any tax breaks or other financial incentives for the developer and, therefore, had little control over the situation.

In a letter to Vision & Beyond, City Councilor Greg Landsman wrote:

“As you know, the City has no authority in this area. That said, it’s important that you understand that we care about what’s going on here. As Cincinnati continues to grow and develop, make no mistake: we will be remembered how this is resolved. ”

About Kristina McManus

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