A dozen Cleveland families, living in nine rental homes owned by St. Rocco, are worried about a proposed rent hike that could force them to move.
The families on Roehl Avenue were sent notices in the mail last month, informing them they would see their rent increase to $650 per month on June 1, and $850 on July 1, about a $400 increase.
Waleska Berios, who has been a tenant for three years explained there is no way she could afford to have her families rent doubled in just 10 weeks.
St. Rocco explained in the notice the rent increase was due to increasing costs for maintenance, property taxes and other expense.
"It's was shocking, it was really shocking because we're like low income," said Berios. "If they can not afford the financial struggle that they're going through why throw it at us by raising our rent so they could cover their back."
The proposed rent increase created such a controversy the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland stepped in and put the rent hike on hold.
The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland issued the following statement:
"The properties in question are not properties of the Diocese of Cleveland. Real property belonging to Catholic parishes in Ohio has always been held in the name of the diocesan bishops under separate trusts for each parish. This fact often gives rise to the misperception that property held in the name of a bishop is property of "the diocese" when in fact such property is parish property.
The letter from Mr. Climaco to the tenants was sent on behalf of St. Rocco Parish, not on behalf of the Diocese of Cleveland. Neither the Diocese nor Bishop Lennon was aware that this letter was being sent or that a decision had been made to raise rents.
St. Rocco Parish, like many parishes in the City of Cleveland, faces challenges relating to finances. Rental properties in particular come with their own set of challenges in terms of expenses and liabilities. The decision of the parish to send the letter regarding rent was an attempt to deal with some of those challenges. After receiving feedback from the tenants, the parish understands and appreciates the reason for the concerns expressed by the tenants.
As a result, the parish has decided not to raise rents at this time and to instead work with the Diocese and others to determine fair rental rates for these properties. St. Rocco Parish regrets any anxiety caused by the letter and is committed to establishing fair rental rates and to ensuring that any decisions made related to the rent for these properties create no undue hardship for its tenants "
Cleveland Councilman Brian Cummins confirmed he'll meet with St. Rocco and the diocese next week to see what compromise can reached.
Meanwhile tenants like Michelle Serrano are still packing-up, expecting the rent increase will force to move.
"I can't even put into words how let down I am," said Serrano. "Just give everybody enough time to get where they don't have to homeless in a month or two."