EUGENE, Ore.– Elderly residents living in the community of Lakewood Park in northwest Eugene are demanding change. They say their neighborhood has changed dramatically since investment companies and new property management got involved.
About 180 prefabricated houses make up the community. Residents over 55 have lived in the neighborhood for over 40 years.
They said it was the quiet surroundings, beautiful lake and affordable costs that drew them to the area.
In March 2020, the residents tried to buy the property back.
“We heard it was for sale, we tried to buy it.” said resident Deann Sweeper. “We wanted to be independent.
But after several auctions, the inhabitants could not acquire it and the property was acquired by a real estate investment company.
Shortly thereafter, the owners appointed First Commercial Properties NW as management. Residents said that’s when it all went downhill.
Rental costs have reportedly increased by 50%, with some paying over $900 to rent their space. This, in turn, led to a drastic drop in home selling prices.
Last fall during the Holiday Farm fire season, residents say ash from the fires blew into their yards and cars, but management failed to take care of it.
Residents said FCP had also installed water meters in all their homes. But it instead caused more damage to their homes.
In May 2021, management moved to Commonwealth Property Services. Since then they have faced even more problems which were brought to the fore during a protest on Saturday.
“When they took over, they fired everyone who worked here,” said Sweeper, who ran the event. “Before, there were a lot of flowers here. Now if you drive around this place and tell someone they have to pay $975 to live here and they have no amenities, they must be kidding. “
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Dozens of neighbors gathered with various signs saying their rights to affordable housing were being taken away.
Some issues discussed at the protest include rent prices, lack of amenities, demolition of buildings and maintenance of the lake.
Erle Calhoun said the algae in the lakes was affecting his health.
“Seaweed contains four airborne toxins and bacteria,” Calhoun said. “That’s what exacerbates my respiratory problems.”
Several residents also spoke about not being able to access community buildings and use other amenities due to COVID-19, despite having paid for them all.
“It looks like during our short period of involvement in management there is some communication that can be improved,” said Adam Cook, president of Commonwealth Real Estate. “Hearing your concerns today is obviously important to us.”
The Commonwealth explained that rental prices are based on market value in other cities like Portland and Seattle. But locals felt it was unfair to compare Eugene to more populated towns.
The management company also explained that amenities such as fitness centers and swimming pools are being developed.
Mayor Lucy Vinis was present at the protest and said affordable housing is a priority for the City of Eugene.
“People are understandably very frustrated,” Vinis said. “We know the pandemic, especially for older people, the ability to be in the community is hugely important in terms of mental health.”
Residents said a majority of neighbors living in the community are on Social Security.
“In a few years we’re going to be overpriced,” said resident Tom Daly. “We’ll say ‘I guess we’ll have to sell the house.’ But we can’t sell the house. It’s a manufactured housing park, so people don’t expect to pay that kind of rent.
Commonwealth Real Estate also announced plans to demolish several buildings in the area, including the post office, despite retaliation from residents.
KEZI 9 News attempted to interview Commonwealth Real Estate executives privately, but they declined.