Lockhaven is a quiet apartment complex that sits across the street from the Ballard Locks. It's tucked away—a 65-year-old building that houses a community of people who are on the whole, almost as old. Some have lived here nearly 50 years. While the 100 or so resident population isn't exclusively elderly, many seniors and older people with disabilites live here. The residents collectively tend to a communal garden on the premises.
This morning, the Lockhaven community stood outside their home, holding picket signs and shivering a bit in the cold. After a six-month battle to fight impending eviction and increased rent, this rally is one of their last shots.
In August of 2013, Goodman Real Estate bought Lockhaven from the Ecklund family, who had owned the building through multiple generations. In September, Goodman illegally delivered 20 day eviction notices to three buildings in the complex. After unionizing, the tenants managed to push back the eviction until this April. Goodman is planning on renovating the space, which will increase rent from roughly $890 a month to around $1500 per unit at the high end. Most of the tenants who will be forced out during the renovation will not be able to afford the increased rent.
"My concern is that this is just one example of what's going on around the city," said Councilmember Nick Licata, who spoke at the rally and has acted as something of a mediator between the Lockhaven Tenant's Union and Goodman Real Estate during the ordeal. "You have tenants seeing their rents dramatically increase when someone comes in, either tears down the building, or buys it and does some remodeling and then starts charging much higher rents. This is a citywide problem."
Licata sat in at last week's Workforce Housing Forum, where City Council heard from an Expert Advisory Team on preliminary research data that will guide the upcoming revisions to the affordbale housing programs currently in place. As Seattle succumbs to more and more development, the skyrocketing rent in the city leads the nation in price hikes at an average 6 percent increase per year.
"I'm 79 years-old, I have two children who live in Ballard and a grandchild, and that's why I moved here," said Carolyn Cooper, a tenant of Lockhaven (pictured left).
"We have asked and asked not to be kicked out of our home. I do not consider this 'just.'"
Debbie Brewer, a blind, elderly woman who lives in Ravenna's Theodora Apartments, a complex that was also recently bought up by Goodman Real Estate, spoke at the Lockhaven apartments with cane in hand. "Moving is a hardship for me, I don't know how I could adjust to a new transition like this, it's difficult."
Natalie Quick, a spokesperson for the Lockhaven Apartment under Goodman Real Estate's ownership, said they are doing all they can to help the residents during this transition, "going above and beyond what we are required to do in the city of Seattle" to hire relocation specialists for 23 residents who qualified because of their income bracket. "We've stepped up, and we're happy to continue the dialogue."
Quick used to live up the street from the apartments. "There's very little land that's left for multi-family developments in the city, and then how much of that is affordable housing? It is a complex issue that cities like Seattle and San Francisco have to work hard to solve."