Lockhaven Tenants Union and Theodora Rescue Committee demonstrating in front of Goodman Real Estate March 11.
Goodman Real Estate weighs in on Lockhaven and Theodora projects
Two weeks ago the Lockhaven Tenants Union and the Theodora Rescue Committee picketed in front of the Goodman Real Estate (GRE) office downtown.
The demonstrators demanded relocation aid for evicted Lockhaven tenants and that GRE not purchase the Theodora building.
Both buildings provide housing for low income individuals. GRE has evicted many of the Lockhaven tenants in order to refurbish the buildings. Once the construction is complete they plan to charge slightly below market rates to tenants. Similar plans are in order for the Theodora building.
GRE released a statement to the Ballard News-Tribune articulating their interpretation of events leading up to the demonstration and how they are responded to the tenant's demands.
Here is GRE's statement:
Goodman Real Estate --
The Lockhaven apartments are more than 50 years old and have reached the end of their physical life. The previous owners put the building on the market at a competitive, full-market price. We purchased the building with the goal of investing several million dollars to make the needed interior and exterior improvements to ensure these unique buildings remain in Ballard for the next 50 years.
Affordability in Seattle is a complex topic and one that we are sympathetic to. We are all a part of this community and housing that is affordable is critical to maintaining a vibrant neighborhood. It's why we not only worked with the City to provide relocation assistance for all residents who qualified for it, but also retained an on-site relocation specialist to work one-on-one with each resident to help us understand their specific needs and how we can best help them. That's included everything from helping them find new apartments in and around Ballard with rents comparable to the Lockhaven, to providing additional financial assistance to those who need it.
Additionally, we're open to being extremely flexible with the timeframe in which residents move – we've communicated a very flexible 12-18 month timeframe, which will also help ease this transition. We're also working individually with any resident who would like to remain at Lockhaven during and after the renovations.
We will continue to work with all residents to do what we can to help. Additionally, we look forward to continuing a dialogue with the City about the tools that can be used to help address affordability in our growing City.
Q: Why do residents at Lockhaven need to relocate?
The family who owned Lockhaven for nearly 50 years sold it in August at a full-market price. Residents at Lockhaven have enjoyed really low rent for the past 5 years, mostly because the previous owners did not do building maintenance, which in turn kept rents far below current market prices in Ballard.
Now, the building needs significant help – from adding insulation to new electrical and plumbing, roofing and siding. We unfortunately can’t make these significant changes while residents occupy the building.
All residents are welcome to return once renovations are complete.
Q: The Seattle Tenant's Union has targeted Lockhaven for what it calls "predatory" behavior by Goodman – is that what happened?
Not at all. We purchased the Lockhaven at full-market price from the prior owner. We’re investing in the building to make sure it stays part of the Ballard community for the next 50-years or more. We’re also keeping the rents below market, which helps ensure they remain more affordable than most of what you see in Ballard right now.
Q: What are you doing to help residents at Lockhaven?
We’re doing much more than required to make sure anyone who needs help gets it. We’ve worked with the City of Seattle to provide 23 residents with full financial relocation assistance to help them with moving costs. In addition, we’ve hired a relocation specialist to work with all residents one-on-one to help them find a new apartment in or around Ballard at rents they can afford. And finally, we’ve provided about 16 residents with relocation assistance who didn’t qualify through the City’s program because we felt they would benefit from the financial help.
Q: Why did you purchase the Lockhaven? What's your plan for the property?
We purchased the Lockhaven because we wanted to make sure someone else didn’t buy it and tear it down – these are very unique buildings that should stay part of the Ballard community and be maintained as an affordable place to live.
Q: What is happening to the Theodora building in Wedgwood?
The building’s owner, Volunteers of America, operated the building for 50 years. In recent years, the building became more and more expensive to maintain, less attractive to new tenants and unsustainable overall. The building layout and infrastructure are significantly outdated and need extensive interior renovation to be viable for the future. After operating it at a significant annual loss, Volunteers of America decided to put the building up for sale. The building will close after February 2015.
Q: Are there plans to provide Theodora residents with relocation funding?
Absolutely. VOA and GRE will provide $5,000 to each resident who relocates. In addition, all residents who qualify for City of Seattle relocation assistance will receive $3,000 to help with their transition. This means each resident could receive about $8,000 to help them move.
Q: How has GRE complied with the demands of the Unions?
That’s a good question. At The Theodora, the Seattle Tenant’s Union wants residents to stay in the building as it is now, which cannot happen because the building is closing in February 2015. At Lockhaven, they wanted us to keep rents where they were under the previous owner, which is not possible because the owner sold the building at a full market price.
While our approach may not be exactly what the Seattle Tenant’s Union wants us to do, we’re going above and beyond to make sure every resident is taken care of, which is important to us.