Second Thoughts: Residents look for a new place to call home
by Jon Mendelson / Tracy Press
Jul 01, 2011 | 4287 views | 3 3 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
McKinley Manor, an apartment complex in central Tracy, has a chance for a new lease on life, but its tenants are facing a far more uncertain future.

It’s been a rocky ride at times on the southeast corner of Lowell Avenue and Tracy Boulevard.

Last year, city of Tracy code enforcement shut down the top floor, forcing many tenants to move out or take up residence on the bottom floor.

More recently, the property fell into foreclosure and was reportedly bought while in dire financial straits.

With new owners — who I guess will fully renovate or raze and rebuild the complex — there’s hope for better days ahead for the Manor.

But that isn’t necessarily true for the people who live there.

They were given 60-day notices to leave when the new owners officially took over. Residents also say the status of their deposits is up in the air, presenting an uncertain future.

“Everyone’s just trying to get a place, but a lot of us don’t have money saved up, because we weren’t expecting (the notices),” said Angelina Rivera, who stood in the apartment building’s courtyard a few weeks ago with several fellow tenants.

“They didn’t state any reason at all” for the notices, said Matt Stewart, who has a steady job but moonlights under the musical moniker “M@t.”

By law, the owner doesn’t have to state a reason for kicking folks out, said Mike Jacobson of San Joaquin County Fair Housing. What an owner does have to do, however, is give folks the proper amount of time to move.

And according to a federal law signed in 2009 by President Obama, it seems the residents didn’t get enough time.

The Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act says tenants of a property that’s emerged from foreclosure with a new owner are entitled to 90 days’ notice if they’re not in violation of contract. According to a local real estate agent, McKinley Manor was foreclosed and bought at auction, meaning its tenants are entitled to 30 days more than their notices allow.

But even without an extended timeline, Rose Hernandez, like other tenants, is mostly concerned with finding a new place to live. For her, it’s especially tough, as many apartment complexes have income requirements for new tenants, and few accept the housing program vouchers that help her pay her rent each month.

“There’s only a few here in Tracy,” Hernandez said.

It’s a struggle made worse by the uncertainty surrounding the deposits.

Several of the Manor’s residents said they don’t know if the new company will pay back their deposit, which was paid to the old ownership.

Late last week, Hernandez said she was told the new management company’s lawyers are “working on it.” When I contacted her yesterday, residents still didn’t have a clear answer as to who should pony up.

According to Jacobson, the burden is squarely at the feet of the new guys.

“It is the opinion of our organization, California Rural Legal Assistance, and many attorneys (except the banks’) that the purchaser at the foreclosure, whether it is the bank or other buyer, is a successor in interest and is liable for the security deposit,” he wrote. “However, I have not heard of any judgments one way or the other.”

He said fair housing’s advice would be to sue both owners and let the courts decide, but the tenants say they don’t want a legal struggle. Just their money back.

Without it, Stewart said, he and his family might not be able to afford their next apartment.

I empathized with the tenants. But I wanted the other side of the story — people get defensive when you talk about their housing, and the owners might have an entirely different view on the matter.

All calls regarding the Manor, according to a sheet of paper on the front door, should be directed to the Driftwood Apartments on Grant Line Road.

After being transferred once, I spoke with a very pleasant woman, and while she couldn’t comment, she promised she’d refer my questions about the notices and deposits to the corporate office.

I also tried directly calling JCM Partners LLC, the new ownership group identified on the posted sheet.

Unfortunately, there was no official response. Though at least one real estate agent familiar with the property said he knew the head of JCM and said he’d be “very surprised” if any funny business were happening under the new ownership.

Not surprisingly, the folks about to lose their homes see it differently.

“If I have nowhere to go, what am I supposed to do with the kids? I have people who would let them stay there, … but it’s our responsibility to put a roof over their heads,” said Ruth Rivera, who shares a home with Stewart. “To me, it doesn’t seem fair at all.”

• Share your thoughts with Jon Mendelson at jmendelson@tracypress.com.
Comments
(3)
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mommyofthree
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July 05, 2011
An apartment may be a home, if you don't have douche bags as a landlord. Sorry, NOT everybody has the luxury to buy a home and call that home. It is not the point that the law is lame and can just remove someone for no reason at all but just shows that in this world people are self centered and just sad.

It is sad that these people will just not take into consideration these people with children, age and maybe the thought that everything is STILL over priced and people who don't make $20 an hour can't afford anywhere else... Especially in this little crappy town where they charge like $1300 for a one bedroom in that one complex out going towards Edgewood (even $800-900 for a 1 bed is crazy). So sad...
Sneaky
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July 04, 2011
I have mixed thoughts on this one. The folks should definitely get their deposits back but other than that it is hard to feel too sympathetic. The top floor was shut down "last year". That should have been a pretty strong indicator that it was time to find a new place, and they had that info over 6 months ago. Plus no matter what you want to call it an apartment is never a "home" and it is not your property. You are only there as long as the landlord wants you there. In that type of situation you have to be ready to move at any time.
victor_jm
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July 01, 2011
The last paragraph of this article says a lot. The truth is often denied by rationalization.


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