News Blog for Seattle's University District Neighborhood


Suddenly Kicked-Out of Home of 25yrs & On Disability: Where is there to go on $660 a month?

March 30th, 2015 · No Comments

When one property investor was asked this question he responded with “Oh, there’s lots of places for people on disability to go.”

Image Courtesy of the Seattle Weekly

But is there? One resident decided to investigate if that is really the case. After a longtime resident of her apartment building took his own life after learning that the new owner of their building was kicking him out, she found out what really can happen to the people who fall through the cracks.

As the University District witnesses increasing changes to its housing landscape, it’s now more than ever important to open a dialog about the consequences in the name of progress and improvements.

The Seattle Weekly recently published an open letter to a building investor written by Janice Harper, a resident of a West Seattle apartment building recently sold by its ‘mom & pop’ owners to a property investor.

After reading this article I was moved to approach the Weekly to request permission to share this important letter with the U-district Daily’s readership. It’s a poignant  story that opens up the issue of the disconnect between progress, gentrification and the daily struggles of everyday people trying to carve out a life in our city.

I am sure many of you know someone, or you are someone who struggles to make ends meet day to day, pay the rent and survive. What if the rug beneath your feet was suddenly pulled out from under you without due warning, where would you land?

Here is the first part of Harper’s open letter. For the full story, please go visit the Seattle Weekly and read it!

Beachwood Apartments in West Seattle.Photo by Kyu Han Used here by permission from the Seattle Weekly

Dear Landlord,

Last week they took Bill’s body away. You never knew him. He’d lived here for over 25 years, a quarter-century that saw him slowly decline from an excited young man who loved James Joyce, the Seahawks, and a good bottle of beer to a decrepit old man who hobbled on crutches and still loved James Joyce, the Seahawks, and a cheap case or two of beer.

Bill’s life wasn’t worth much; no one in their right mind would have ever hired him, and few would think to rent to him. He was just this side of homeless, but our landlords, Eve and Charles, couldn’t throw him out. They knew he had no options, so year after year, they let him stay on, even though he couldn’t pay any rent. They’re good-hearted people who had bought the building as an investment, inheriting him from the previous owners, like a quirk in the building you grow to love even if it makes you grumble and groan.

Bill got by on about $660 a month in disability, some food stamps, and the security of his single small room. He was always happy to see his neighbors, always had a small gift to share, whether a poem he had written, a recipe from his mom, or a flower he’d picked on his walk. He drove us crazy, and we drove him places after bus service was cut in our neighborhood. Year by year, Bill lost what little he had—his ability to walk; the bus that took him to museums, parks, and the grocery store; most recently his food stamps. But he always had his little room, so he felt safe and secure in this unsafe and insecure world.

Until the day Eve and Charles told us they were putting the property up for sale. Who could blame them? The building is a century old and so much work went into maintaining it, especially for a couple of people who, also, are aging. But it’s prime real estate, right on the water with a view that would make even Donald Trump drool. So we had a good idea of what would happen after the sale went through. Skyrocketing rents and a landlord we’d never see, much less ever know.

Our fears were fanned by a recent Seattle Times article noting that old “mom and pop” buildings are being bought up by investors who are raising rents in our area by as much as 130 percent. Another article noted that rents in Seattle are increasing faster than almost any other place in the country. In the last five years, rents have gone up 32 percent in Seattle, a trend that places our city second only to New York. That’s good news for you, as a landlord, because it means that investing in buildings like ours will bring you a steady flow of passive income. All you had to do is come up with a down payment and a management company to collect our rents. As our monthly rent checks roll in, we will provide you with the money to pay your mortgage, your taxes, your insurance, and your maintenance, and likely secure a considerable income for you as well.

Read the full Letter by Janice Harper Here.

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