Displaced tenants march in protest of skyrocketing rents

SEATTLE - Hoping their new landlord will reconsider, dozens of apartment residents marched through the streets of Ballard to plea for lower rents.

"They're taking away some affordable, sustainable housing units that there really are not a lot of replacements for," said Shawn Walton, a double-amputee who's been living at the Lockhaven Apartments for the past three years. "I only have so much money with my disability to spend on rent. I'm not sure I'll find a place anywhere in this neighborhood."

About three-dozen tenants and their supporters marched from a Ballard park, past Lockhaven Apartments, and to their new landlord's private marina.

Real estate company owner John Goodman bought the 138-unit complex last year, and is in the process of spending millions-of-dollars to renovate the 65-year-old buildings.

The 120 residents must vacate during the renovation, but many of them say they simply won't be able to afford to return.

"We've got a lot of older people living here, people who have lived here for years," said Walton. "Most are lower income folks. This just isn't right."

Tenants say they've been informed their rents will nearly double once the remodeling project is finished.

Mr. Goodman declined an interview request, but his spokesperson says management has given tenants six-to-twelve months notice of the changes, and is providing relocation services for those who need to find other housing.

The real estate company, she says, has so far provided $70-thousand in financial assistance for some of the most needy tenants. She adds the higher rents will still be 20-to-30-percent lower than what other companies are charging.

But the protestors are pleading with Goodman's company to reduce the planned rent increases, or at least reserve a portion of the units for low-income residents.