Residents are protesting rent increases and “unsafe” living conditions at Groveton Apartments

Residents of a designated affordable housing complex near Huntley Meadows Park say the rent is too high.

The landlord of the Lafayette Apartments (7136 Groveton Gardens Road) in Groveton has increased rents effective June 1, even though living conditions have become “unsafe” and “dangerous” in recent years, according to Tenant and Workers United (TWU), an organization Local popularity. An organization that supports the advocacy efforts of low-income communities of color.

In a protest organized by TWU, residents gathered at the apartment complex’s playground on September 7 to urge Jonathan Rose Enterprises to stop raising their rents and address maintenance issues.

“These sudden rent increases for apartments with significant health and safety issues are shocking,” said Marianela Funes, community organizer at TWU. “It is this type of behavior that is forcing our neighbors out of their homes and displacing entire communities.”

Vartania Olivia says she and other residents started organizing with TWU about three months ago after they were informed in May that their rents would be increased.

According to TWU, rents were increased by the maximum allowable increase for a property that qualifies for low-income housing tax credits. The organization says residents reported “widespread inconsistency” in the amount of increases and the wording of the notices they received.

Yesenia Klimato, a Lafayette Apartments resident for more than 11 years, says she received a letter saying her rent would rise by $200 a month on June 1. However, if you do not agree to the new rate by signing the letter, your rent payment will automatically increase by $321.

“This increase is very high,” Clemato said. “What we want is to stop rent increases. We are a low-income community and this is too much for us.”

Rose Community Management, which manages the Lafayette Apartments, confirmed it has increased rents by 10% on average, which it says is “significantly less than what the law allows” for a designated affordable housing community.

A company spokesperson said the increases came after the company voluntarily froze rents for three years during the Covid-19 pandemic. With the neighborhood’s median income rising 18% during that period, the building could legally raise rents by up to 17%, according to Rose Community Management.

“It is now necessary to raise rents at Lafayette Apartments to keep pace with inflation and rising property salaries and operating costs to ensure the property remains in good working order,” a Rose Community Management spokesperson said in a statement. “…We look forward to continuing to serve the residents of this affordable housing community.”

Jonathan Rose says he has completed more than $9 million in repairs and maintenance since purchasing the property, including roof replacement, porch and chimney updates, water heater upgrades and improvements to the units’ floors, countertops and kitchen appliances.

However, residents say conditions have deteriorated since Jonathan Rose acquired the 340-unit property in May 2016.

Problems included neglected maintenance requests, rodent infestations, unsafe and unsanitary living conditions, and unusable common areas, according to TWU.

“This property was in very bad shape. They never care about our maintenance requests,” Olivia said. “The pool has been closed for over 4 years. We have pests (infestations).”

The pool at the Lafayette Apartments reopened on Aug. 18 after being closed for several years due to the pandemic and repairs, according to the property manager.

In light of the rent increases, some residents fear the landlord is preparing to sell the apartments, although TWU did not clarify the basis for this speculation. Jonathan Rose did not comment on whether there were any plans to put the drug on the market.

“This leaves the future of the community in limbo,” TWU said. “This community is facing exorbitant rent increases coupled with a lack of maintenance repairs and unsafe and unhealthy living conditions. The management company must do better.

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