Rent hike looms for tenants at low-income apartment complex in Cedar Rapids

“It’s just a room with four walls. And it’s not worth that kind of money.”
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 10:29 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Rents is set to rise at an apartment complex in Cedar Rapids that specifically provides housing for those with low-incomes.

Hawthorne Hills in southwest Cedar Rapids is for people who earn less than half of the Area Median Income. For a single person, that’s less than $32,000 a year.

The increase in rent is not too far behind a change in ownership.

The Affordable Housing Network, Inc. (AHNI) used to own Hawthorne Hills, but according to their director, back in December they sold the complex to a company called Edgemark in Colorado. Edgemark’s website says it acquires and operates affordable housing properties across the country. However, Hawthorne Hills residents say housing is going to be less affordable now that they are in charge.

“It’s just a room with four walls. And it’s not worth that kind of money,” said Thomas Fredricksen. He said he has lived at Hawthorne Hills for about four years now and he currently pays $542 a month for a studio.

“I only make about seven—under $750 a month for SSDI. And that takes a lot of chunk out of that. And they’re not supposed to be taking that much out,” said Fredericksen.

Fredricksen said he recently received several letters about changes at the complex including one that said his rent was going up to $620 a month.

The facts of Aubrie Brokel’s story are very similar: a years-long resident who lives in an efficiency, pays about $540 a month in rent, and is facing a roughly 15% increase to $620.

“Kinda makes me just, like, anxious a little bit,” said Brokel. “That’s a lot of money.”

Rent at Hawthorne Hill is based on a tenant’s income, and both Frederickson and Brokel say their income levels have not changed to go along with a higher rent.

“No, it was it was out of the blue,” said Fredricksen.

Now, both are considering leaving Hawthorne Hills.

“It’s going to be either pay it or, you know, move out,” said Fredricksen. “And I really don’t want to pay it.” Although, with such a limited income, he said he is having difficult finding any other options.

“There’s not much help out there for people in my position, that are on a fixed income and only have certain amount of resources to work with. And it’s hard for us to make it by,” he said.

He wanted the new owners to remember that, for him, the difference of 80 dollars a month was life-altering.

“They don’t see the person that’s actually living there,” he said. “I would think that, you know, people would show a little bit of leniency somewhere and I think rent would be a good start.”

When asked why AHNI sold off the complex, director Danielle Rodriguez said it was “due to the fact of our mission base.” She said the mission base was families and children and Hawthorne Hills mainly is home to single adults.

TV9 also contacted Edgemark to ask why rent was raised on a low-income housing complex and what the terms of the purchase agreement were. They did not send a comment.