Saturday, June 30, 2012

Why should Profit Dictate the Displacement of Elders from Their Homes?

"How can someone be so mean to their elders?" - Anonymous older resident of Sunset Creek Apartments (Quoted in Colo. Springs Gazette, June 24, p. A2)

For literally dozens of elderly citizens residing at the Sunset Creek Apartments in Colorado Springs, they had believed they'd finally found a safe, congenial 'nirvana'.  Many referred to the complex area housing 40 units - almost entirely of seniors -as  "a peaceful little village". The reason? Unlike many habitation circumstances for apartment dwellers in most cities, the elderly here were next door neighbors, literally, and watched out for one another, had each other's back.  The latter is especially critical given many of the residents have health problems and need regular assistance...or someone checking in on them.

So, imagine their pain, confusion and discomfort when notified by the new management (California -based Seagate Properties) that all must be moved  from their current digs by July 15. Reason? The 40 units in which they're now housed are to be refitted and remodeled to become student "apartment' units housing up to four students each (from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs) .  (The apartments being vacated run from $600-800 a month but it isn't clear what the students may be charged, but $1600 per unit is a likely estimate - or twice the maximum rent for each elder unit occupant)

The point is the elder residents have been informed that their 40 units will be converted to "dorm like student apartments" and as many as 160 students will be housed there beginning in August". (Colorado Springs Gazette, 'Urban Renewal Pushes Out Apartment Residents, June 24., p. A1). Those in the middle of their leases have been offered $400 in "moving expenses" but the problem is most either have no where to go or are aghast at the location of the same complex where they're supposed to move. According to the same piece:

"Seven tenants signed a petition telling the management company that a move is not acceptable. The protestors maintain the replacement units they were shown were dirty and in rundown condition in 'the furthest darkest corners of the property'. Some are in a heavily forested area near a creek and public trail that they fear would make units vulnerable to break ins."

Other plucky residents who dug in their heels and vowed not to move come hell or high water were sent a letter from management warning them what they faced when the students arrived. They were informed, for example, that "resident advisers may hold meetings at all hours" keeping them awake, and doors would likely be left open as students shouted, screamed and carried on. As the letter added (ibid.):

"These are all things that are common and appropriate for college life."

At this notification, one resident remarked:

"Students can live anywhere, why do we have to be uprooted?"

Which is a good question! Also, what ever happened to the time-honored principle of "first come, first served." Isn't there anything like "housing seniority" for those seniors at Sunset Creek? While all the 32,000 recent evacuees (including many seniors) from the Waldo Canyon fire are being given terrific treatment, how about these folks?

Specifically, here's a novel thought: Why not move the students to the other end of the property now planned for the elders? If the reason is because a shuttle bus is more convenient to the elders' units location, then how about the students hike maybe ten minutes to get there? Must they have the shuttle stop to get them to the UCCS campus right at their front doors? In my college days - not all that long ago - we relished lugging books across campus without whining about it.

Isn't this the least this kids could do for the older folks? Evidently Seagate considers it a fait accompli so the issue is closed. The elders will have to vacate, move to a remote corner of the complex, or move out. The students will be treated like landed gentry just arrived on new estates. Why, because they will generate a lot more money for Seagate than those elderly curmudgeons!

Once more, my friends, we see "Pareto Efficiency" at work! See, e.g.

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