Reno apartment tenants squeezed by rising rents

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -- Reno's tight housing market is attracting investors who buy rental properties. Often that's bad news for current tenants as residents of 2625 Yori Avenue learned recently.

The news arrived as it often does with a note left on the door. The building had been sold.

The new owner promised improvements, a general upgrade in a neglected, often troubled neighborhood. Any tenant would expect that to come at a cost.

"When they said an increase I thought maybe $50 bucks, $100 bucks more," says Michael Abbott who moved in with wife and young son recently, "but a one bedroom went from $700 to $1,000 a month and a two bedroom went from $800 to $1250 a month."

Those are increases of 43 percent to 57 percent and beyond the means of some residents.

We talked with the new owner--an investor from Encinitas, California who insists the amount of increases is still uncertain--but the new rents will be set by the market, competitive in this neighborhood. The tenants we talked with said they asked and were told those amounts.

In any case, when you're already living in a low income area abilities to absorb a big increase or opportunities to move elsewhere are limited.

Abbott and his family were living here to save money to build up a nest egg hopefully to buy a home in the future. That plan may be on hold.

"We're just going to be penny pinching to make the rent."

Tom Juneau, a long distance trucker thinks he may stay, but said, “I'm just going to find another job, not a second job, but a better paying job."

Carolyn Turner, disabled, on oxygen moved in with her brother who has lived here for 17 years. They're on a fixed income.

"I've been calling around to the fixed income places and there's a waiting list. They've said they might be able to squeeze me in, but they aren't sure. So I don't know what I'm going to do."

We were invited inside one of the units without our camera to see that yes, improvements are being made, but are they enough to warrant the kind of increases the tenants have been told to expect?

"This one's different because they've been told the rent increases will be above 40%," says Reno Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus, "and there's little evidence that there's been permits to invest in the property, and second because it's in this neighborhood and we haven't had a lot of reports from this neighborhood, the Yori-Grove neighborhood."

City leaders like Brekhus has been hearing stories like this for the past few years.

"Almost 50 percent of our residents are tenants and their issue, their concerns have never been represented to the city in a formal way."

That's apparently changing. She says a new Tenants Issues Board will start meeting shortly, studying the issue, looking for possible instances of price gouging and potential solutions.

"If we don't have the authority to address this issue then we're going to talk to the legislature about it, but it's very tough when you hear this is going on."

Any answers will arrive too late for these people. They face immediate tough choices.

"When this happens to someone living in this neighborhood," says Abbott, "literally they have no place to go."

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