Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Eviction notices a sign of the times

Balmoral manager says tenants now paying past-due rents

Express Staff Writer

At the Balmoral Apartments in the Woodside area of Hailey, affordable rents havenít been enough to keep some tenants from moving away. Some residents of the apartments said the recession is to blame. Photo by David N. Seelig

The 19 buildings that make up the Balmoral Apartments complex on Shenandoah Drive in Hailey are home to many working-class families.

Times have been tough on this population during the recession, but the new manager of Balmoral is not interested in continuing to give residents breaks on paying rent.

"With 192 units, I think it was just an overwhelming process for collections for the previous manager," said Sarah Walker, who took over management of Balmoral in June. "My policy is that if you don't pay rent, you can't live for free."

Walker works for Steadfast Management Co., based in Newport Beach, Calif., which bought Balmoral two years ago. Balmoral is a low-income tax-credit apartment complex. Funding for the development costs of such housing is provided by allowing a developer to take a federal tax credit equal to a large percentage of the cost incurred for development of the units.

As a result, rents at Balmoral are based on maximum income requirements, and the complex has some of the most affordable rents in the valley. A one-bedroom apartment can be had for $389 for those who earn $16,000 or less per year. Up to seven people can live in one of Balmoral's three-bedroom units.

Yet many could not, or would not, pay their rent on time. Walker filed 25 eviction notices during her first month on the job.

"This is an affordable living community, not a subsidized one," she said. "Some were getting three-day notices every month. About 80 percent of the renters pay at the last minute before being evicted. It's about re-communicating what the policies are here. If we have not received rent in full by the 10th of the month, the files are turned over to attorneys for eviction."

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Walker said she has only had to have two families physically evicted by the sheriff. She said three other families "skipped out" by dropping off keys and leaving past dues unpaid.

"They're all great folks. I'm lucky to get to know people personally," Walker said. "Many were outside painters and were able to find work this summer and get caught up."

Many other Balmoral residents, however, have been unsuccessful in their job searches.

"When I moved in here in April, I couldn't find a parking spot. Now there are spots available everywhere," said tenant Jeremy Baine, 30.

Baine said he's barely hanging on himself, having lost two cooking jobs since July. He said he just got hired at a newly opened restaurant in Hailey.

"I've got rent paid but I don't have a single cent in my hand," he said.

Another resident, a woman who asked that her name not be used, said both she and her husband got laid off from their restaurant jobs. She said her husband found another one, but only for two or three hours a day.

"I asked the manager if she could charge us less rent, but she said no," the woman said.

She said a woman with three girls who lived in a nearby unit gave up on looking for work and moved back to Mexico.

About 80 percent of Balmoral residents are Hispanic.

Balmoral resident Armando Garcia, 25, said he's seen numerous acquaintances move in with family or friends to split rents.

"The Hispanic community's trying to help each other," he said.

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