Pine Ridge community canvassing report

Long-time tenants must vacate within 30 days, under threat of legal action

by Dmitry Podobreev, Paul Ortiz and Sheila Payne, Alachua County Labor Coalition

On July 2, the Alachua County Labor Coalition (ACLC) helped organize with members of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and members of the Pine Ridge community to go door-to-door to talk to residents of the Pine Ridge community in NW Gainesville with the aim of organizing resistance to their displacement by a new landlord. Twenty community members joined with 20 Pine Ridge residents in solidarity to defend the Pine Ridge residents’ rights to not lose their housing. This was after a Zoom meeting where Pine Ridge residents told what was happening to their community. 

Key City Capital, a Texas based investment firm, purchased 83 units in Pine Ridge in 2020, including a beloved community center building which provides the neighborhood children with programs and activities. The company says they are renovating the apartments and will raise the rents by almost $400. Current residents, many of whom have lived there for over a decade, some for over 25 years, were put on a month-to-month lease and are being told to leave their homes within 30 days with no guarantee of another place to stay. 

Residents are receiving letters from the management company stating, “You are advised that your tenancy and/or lease if applicable will not be renewed. You must vacate the premises no later than 7/31/21. In the event that you do not vacate the premises by said date, legal action may be taken in which you may be held liable for holdover (double) rent, damages, court costs and attorneys’ fees.”

Living conditions in the neighborhood have long been sub-standard. Many of the apartments suffer from leaky roofs with concurrent mold and clogged plumbing among many deficiencies. When residents asked the property managers to live up to their responsibilities, perform maintenance, and deal with the glaring health and safety problems at the properties, they are ignored. Worse yet, one resident says, “I was told by the new owners that no one would be receiving their security deposits.”

Despite all the issues, Pine Ridge residents cherish their bonds with each other and the community they’ve built.“We have worked to build our own community center here where our children have healthy activities to do after school. We will lose all of this if we are kicked out of our homes,” one resident said.

“Pine Ridge people are lower-income but we are tight-knit. We look out for each other and keep our children safe from all of the violence in this city. If we are dispersed from this development, many of us have nowhere to go.”

Another resident at risk of losing their home said they expect to be homeless if they are kicked out from Pine Ridge, “because there is no affordable housing in Gainesville.”

The primary emotion that Pine Ridge residents expressed was incredible stress and horror at losing their home and community. 

Key City Capital and Jacksonville based Suncoast Property Management, the company hired to manage the units, are destroying the community, displacing people, pricing them out of future residency, and furthering the housing crisis in this city. 

Especially because of the pandemic, many residents do not have first and last month’s rent, security deposit money, and are fearful of not finding another place to rent. 

Almost 100 residents signed the petition to the City of Gainesville and Alachua County Commissioners asking for their help. Three Rivers Legal Services is offering their assistance, as is Alachua County Support Services. 

ACLC is meeting with the residents at the community center next week to plan further actions, tell them about community resources including moving assistance and monetary assistance with deposits. We want the residents to stay in their community, but are planning for mutual aid assistance. 

We are asking people to call the city and county commissioners to ask for help to stop these evictions. We are demanding that this wealthy corporate investment company give the residents their security deposits back and are demanding that they give residents longer than 30 days to find other homes.

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