Purchasers of the two-bedroom, two-bath condos are not happy to have lease-to-buy occupants as their new neighbors.
“Everybody that bought here is angry,” said George Schwejlih, one of three owners who met with Plaintalker to discuss the situation.
The owners are concerned about possible transience, overcrowding of units, the commitment of tenants versus owners and even the rent being too low. Since January, owners say, the number of tenants has swelled to match the number of owners. Owner Latiema Jefferson said she did careful research before making her purchase, talking about “all outcomes” before buying. The new scenario is one she did not anticipate.
Only about one-third of the condos are owner-occupied, this despite first-time buyer incentives and lowered prices to spur sales. Another inducement, a proposed abatement that would have allowed owners to pay only 40 percent of property taxes to the city, was rejected by the City Council. Of the current owners, some bought at the higher, initial prices close to $300,000. Now, sales advertisements offer the condos for starting prices “in the high $100,000s,” one owner said.
The owners found out about the rentals partly because of other problems they are trying to address, including upkeep of common areas, security, completion of a promised rooftop terrace and designated parking spaces. The building includes a senior center that the developer created for the city, and members share the parking lot. Owners wanted marked spaces set aside for their exclusive use as promised, but until recently they were not all assigned. When a list of designated parking spaces was recently posted, owners realized some were being reserved for renters.
Plaintalker easily found online advertisements for leasing the units, including one on Craig’s List and a Twitter ad. Rents for the two-bedroom, two bath units were quoted as $1,300 and $1,450.
The City Council approved an agreement in 2006 for the condo development, with a new senior center and a veterans’ center to be included at no cost to the city. The agreement included references to “market rate housing” and condominiums, along with terms for closings to take place only after the senior center got an occupancy permit and for the veterans’ center space to come under city ownership only after all units were sold. Allowing renters appears to cloud some terms, including a condition that a condo association can only be formed when 75 percent of the units are sold.
Since last summer, the owners have been trying to get a developer-assigned project manager to address their concerns about building conditions. As of this month, they have been informed that a Lakewood “property manager” has been assigned to the building. Plaintalker’s attempt to reach developer Glen Fishman for comment Tuesday was directed to an employee who was not available.
The group, with owner Emmett Swan as point person, is now pursuing the need for legal counsel to represent their interests.
City officials including Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson did not respond to Plaintalker’s phone calls Tuesday about renters moving into The Monarch. Two City Council members said they were unaware of the situation, but also had concerns about what it might mean regarding terms of the city’s agreement with the developer.
Schwejlih already has his opinion.
“I really think we are in desperate straits,” he said.