Community leaders step up to help residents at Western Manor Apartments

Published: Aug. 29, 2019 at 11:24 PM EDT
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During a meeting Thursday, leaders and agencies stood behind residents at Western Manor Apartments in South Bend as they fight to keep their community together.

Residents said they are outraged after being told by their new owners, Premier Real Estate Management, that rent will increase by about $200 starting Sept. 1.

Some residents said the new owners acted too quickly.

“What has happened on the west side of South Bend, we feel like we are being forsaken,” said Rodney Gadson, who is representing residents at Western Manor Apartments.

Now, residents and those representing them said they want accountability, answers and action.

“We need to know from the political arena and other agencies what roles they are supposed to play,” Gadson said.

Judy Fox, a lawyer with the University of Notre Dame, got to work right away, informing residents of their legal rights.

The new owners apparently told Fox they will work with residents who have a new place to live but are unable to move out until Sept. 5.

“The other issue is we have been able to gather charities together to help people pay their deposits on the electricity. They’ve never had to pay for electricity before. They’ve suddenly had to pay an increased rent, and then when you first sign up for utilities, you have a huge deposit,” Fox said.

Mold and water leaks have also been issues in apartment units.

Code enforcement has already worked on 10 cases and told residents to call them if there is an issue.

“You’re charging increased rent to the current residents but not making the conditions improved for them, and that, to me, is unconscionable,” Fox said.

In a statement, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said, in part:

“Residents are facing a crisis. … No one should face sudden, unjust rent hikes from landlords.”

“I just want you to know that this is a priority and we recognize how serious this situation is, and we are working on your behalf,” said Genevieve Miller with the mayor’s office.

One resident said she now feels more hopeful.

“There seems to be more and more people from different offices coming to our meetings, and so I am really happy of the progress that we made,” Shacarra Lloyd said.

For residents looking for new places to live, community leaders are asking landlords with available units to help.

“There are people who are going to have to relocate, and we want them to relocate into a safe, affordable unit,” Fox said.

The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 5.