LUBBOCK, TX (AP) - Earlier this week, the KCBD Investigates Team published a report on the rent hike at Hillcrest Manor Senior Apartments.
The apartments are located off of the north loop and north Memphis Avenue in Lubbock and advertise it participates in an affordable housing program.
It is home to residents on Section 8, and several others who are on fixed incomes, living on disability and social security.
Management attached a letter to residents' doors alerting them of a rent increase scheduled to go into effect on June 1, in the middle of their lease terms.
The KCBD Investigates Team spoke with the corporate office and we were provided with a statement reading in part:
KCBD was there as senior citizens made their way across the street from Hillcrest Manor to participate in a peaceful protest.
Linda Alexander has lived at the apartments for 10 years and attended the protest.
We asked Alexander if she ever expected to participate in a protest at 68-years-old.
"Never. I mean I had my share back when I was younger, back in the sixties and the seventies. Never did I dream that I would be part of the protest. But I do know they work sometimes. They help," she said.
And for some, the crossing the street to participate was not easy.
The majority of residents we spoke with said they were going to see an increase of more than $100 a month.
"For me, that was a $152 rent hike," said Patti Munoz.
Munoz said she is on disability and a rent hike of that proportion has her worried.
"I was told that at the most, my rent would go up maybe $10, $15, $20 at a time," Munoz said.
Munoz is not alone.
Wanda Arrington has lived at Hillcrest Manor almost two years.
She said this most recent rent hike is almost $150.
"When I moved here and I asked the questions what the rent was and how often did it go up. I was told $5 to $10. My first lease went up $20 and I could live with that. They told me it would cap at $724, that is the most it would go up. I found out that was not true," Arrington said.
While residents told KCBD that could not afford that steep of a hike, they also could not afford the charges associated with breaking a lease.
Just days after our initial report into the rent increase, Hillcrest Manor sent another letter to residents announcing it would suspend the rent increase.
It states in part, "We understand that there have been concerns recently about increasing rents. We regret the inconvenience this is causing, and we have heard your concerns. The increase sent out earlier is not required for June 1st, but will follow your current lease expiration."
"I believe Hillcrest made the change simply because of the awareness you guys brought out at KCBD. The investigation, the digging that you did. It kind of brought awareness to what is going on here. Just because Hillcrest has the right to do that, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do," said David Putman.
Putman's father and in-laws live at Hillcrest Manor.
Putman said he is thankful his dad can finish out his lease at the same rate, but he will not be able to renew a lease at Hillcrest Manor.
"My dad's increase in social security was $48 for the year. he can't take that money and apply it to that kind of increase, so it's going to require us to move as it is for several others. It's just not a senior friendly property right now," Putman said.
He and other residents told KCBD finding a new senior citizen apartment complex is not easy.
"There's just not that many. I went last week to look and the lady was very nice, but there is a two-year waiting list," Arrington said.
"The wait-list is so long we have actually reached out as far as 60 miles from Lubbock to try to find him a place and the wait list can be anywhere from six months to a year," Putman said. "If you are in a community like here where they are constantly in a 12 month lease, it makes it next to impossible to coordinate the timing to get them out without paying thousands of dollars in penalties," Putman said.
As some residents work to re-budget and others look for a new home, they tell us they are devastated the community they have worked to build is falling apart.
Betty Barton said she just moved to Lubbock five months ago and the transition was difficult.
"It's hard enough to move to begin with because you are losing a church and a community and friends of 20 years or more. Then you have to make new ones and lose those. That's really very difficult," Barton said.
Barton said she has acclimated to her new community at Hillcrest Manor and the rent hike is now forcing her new friends, and possibly herself, to find a new place to call home.
"When you are 84, you don't bounce back as quickly as you do when you are 24. you just aren't as resilient," Barton said.