Senior renters forced from apartments in ownership change; Colorado Springs City Council holding meeting Thursday

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Phil Erholm has lived in the Emerald Towers for almost eight years, but it's likely he won't get to celebrate that anniversary in February.

He's one of the dozens of senior citizens who are being asked to leave the building within 60 days after receiving a notice the property has changed management.

“There are some people who have been here 30 years or longer. This is their home, it’s hard to leave," Erholm said.

The notice pointed out that they legally only had to give 21 days to residents before giving them the boot, but they offered residents $500 dollars if they were able to move out within 30 days.

Originally they were told, if they couldn't get out that soon, they'd have 60 days to leave. But after a nudge from city leaders, 11 News has learned the owners decided to give some residents 90-180 days to move.

Erholm thought the cash offer was insulting.

"I think it’s a little bit of a kick in the boot, $500 doesn’t even begin to get you out, get you moved and get you a new place. It [the move] probably can and will put a financial burden on a lot of the people here," Erholm added.

The notice also includes a few sister properties run by the same company, but tenants tell 11 News many of those options have long waiting lists and would be impossible to move in on time.

Silver Key Senior Services Chief Development Officer Lorri Orwig is now priming her caseworkers to handle these problems.

She said the timing makes this even more difficult.

“These seniors are planning their holidays, it’s November. They are thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas and maybe they were already planning on being out of town visiting family members," Orwig said. "Now they need to add finding a new residence to the mix which will completely change what their plans were for the holiday.”

These seniors aren't the only people who are going to be searching the Colorado Springs renter's market this winter. The competition for affordable rent is already steep.

“Seniors may not have the same tech-savvy as a younger person in regards to using a smartphone or tablet to navigate the housing market in this community," Orwig explains. "They may also be facing issues with transportation and so that could be an additional barrier to them being able to access housing quicker.”

Right now, back at the Emerald Tower, Phil Erholm is trying to figure out what his next move is, as the time ticks down.

“I'm not sure ... I haven’t had time to think about it," Erholm mused. "For years I’ve been thinking of moving back to Iowa. I have family there. That’s an option, but I don’t like the fact that I have to do this in a hurry.”

In an emergency meeting held Thursday, Colorado Springs City Council President Richard Skorman said what has happened at Emerald Towers, highlights the potential future crisis for affordable housing, especially for senior citizens.

"What we realize by this incident is, this is common, especially with seniors. They're predicting a 15,000 unit shortage for seniors over the next couple of years in the community. That's a very vulnerable population. There may be this kind of situation happening many more times," Skorman said.

Several local organizations were at the emergency meeting, including The Coalition for Compassion and Action who is taking donations for the displaced tenants and asking for volunteers to help moving them.

11 News reached out to Apartment Management Consultants L.L.C. for comment. About a week later, Emerald Towers released a statement.

It said in part:

"Emerald Towers understands that this news came as a surprise to many residents and that it will require many longtime residents to vacate apartments they have lived in for many years. Emerald Towers truly regrets any hardships that may arise due to the necessary displacement of its residents. Unfortunately, Emerald Towers is an older building (built in 1967) that is in need of extensive renovations to provide quality housing for the next fifty years.

Please know that Emerald Towers and Manager are committed to doing their best to assist residents in their relocation efforts. As for the 60-day deadline, Emerald Towers will consider on a case by case basis any requests by residents for additional time or assistance in vacating their respective apartments."

The release says residents can contact Ashley Jefferson at a.jefferson@amcllc.net for additional time requests or assistance.

Thursday, Colorado Springs City Council announced it would be holding a meeting to discuss options for tenants. The meeting will be at 3 p.m. at City Hall on 107 N. Nevada in the Pikes Peak conference room and is open to the public.

Agencies including Silver Key Senior Services and the Apartment Association of Southern Colorado will be on hand at the meeting.

If you are looking for help finding affordable senior housing, Silver Key is standing by with information. Call 719-884-2350.