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Valley families being forced from long-time apartments due to renovations

Mountainside Apartments in Ahwatukee
Posted at 4:40 PM, Jun 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-21 21:54:32-04

AHWATUKEE, AZ — The record heat and skyrocketing housing market have made moving in the Valley more of a burden.

Many families though are having to pack up their belongings and search for a new place after getting "non-renewal notices" this year from their apartment complexes.

"I just want to have a place to lay my head at night, and a safe environment to live in," said Barb Bonham.

For the past 13 years, Bonham has lived at Mountainside Apartments in Ahwatukee.

"My daughter lives here with me. She's lived here for the entire time. My grandson was born in 2017, and he has lived here the whole time too," said Bonham.

Earlier this year Bonham came home to a "non-renewal notice hanging on my door."

The grandmother was blindsided. "I don't know what the reason is-- like why we were issued a non-renewal, and they won't tell me," said Bonham, who has repeatedly requested a rationale from complex management.

Down the street at Mountain Park Ranch Apartments, the same situation is playing out for single mother Candace Yazzie.

"It's putting stress on me and my kids, because they're like, 'Mom, we just moved here. I'm getting used to my routine here,'" said Yazzie, who moved to Phoenix from the Navajo Nation at 13 years old.

After four years, Yazzie is now having to move at the end of June, like Bonham, so her apartment can make "renovations."

"I think they're making me leave because [there is] a big gap. They'll have somebody pay that $1,900 [new rent] versus me paying $1,250," said Yazzie.

According to RentCafe, the average rent in Phoenix increased 10% over the past year. The average cost for an Ahwatukee unit is now $1,408.

Meanwhile, estimates the Valley rent jumped 17%, the fifth most in the country.

Bonham, who fell behind on rent during the pandemic before getting financial assistance from the City of Phoenix, suspects her complex also is looking to re-list her desirable unit for more money.

"Because of the fact that we've been here for so long, they can't raise the rent very high. So they're trying to get us out, so they can charge a lot more rent," said Bonham.

When Yazzie posted about her situation in an Ahwatukee Facebook group, looking for suggestions and advice, she found out just how common the practice was becoming in the Phoenix metro.

"Oh, my gosh, I just thought it was just me or even just the complex, but it's happening everywhere," said Yazzie. "People are like, 'How am I going to survive?'"

"We're seeing [this] more than I think I've seen in several years," said Pam Bridge, with Community Legal Services.

Bridge though, says there is not much recourse for residents if complexes give them at least 30 days' notice.

"We are seeing rents go up everywhere throughout the Valley. We see the proper notice, and landlords are allowed to do that," said Bridge. "Both a landlord and tenant can terminate a lease... Even if they've been there 20 years, the landlord still has a right if they give adequate notice to terminate the lease."

Even though it is legal, the move has detrimental impacts on many families.

"If they can't find a place because rents are going up, they end up having to move in with families, going into shelters, living in temporary areas where money goes quickly," said Bridge. "Let alone the fact that it's 118 outside right now."

Yazzie says she may take her teens and stay with relatives.

"I may possibly bunk with them until I find something or save a little bit more money to afford the housing around me," said Yazzie. "It's ridiculous."

As for Barb, she created a GoFundMe to help her pay for a new place, after being laid off early in the pandemic and spending her savings to keep her family afloat.

"It's hard not to worry about stuff. I mean, we're going to be on the street," she said.

ABC15 asked both complexes in Ahwatukee why they were issuing non-renewals and how many tenants were being displaced.

Mountain Park responded via email and said:

Mountain Park is currently undergoing an interior apartment renovation...over the next four years and includes updated finishes, flooring and new appliances. By spreading out the renovation over several years, it allows us to update our interiors over time; to better align with the Ahwatukee market. Many of our current residents are excited to transfer into a newly renovated apartment home."