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Retirement communities' fears over rising rent prompts letter from senator

Posted at 6:54 PM, Dec 19, 2022

STARK COUNTY, Ohio — Neighbors in several Northeast Ohio retirement communities are grappling with drastic rent hikes after a company took over properties in Navarre and Elyria. The seniors, many of whom are living on fixed incomes, worry how they’ll afford to stay in their homes.

News 5 stories highlighting the concerns are now being cited by Congress in a demand for answers.

Monday, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown issued a letter to Legacy Communities, LLC about the steep rent hikes at Navarre Village and Twin Lakes. He also sent one to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, better known as Freddie Mac, requesting a review of its financing practices for manufactured home communities.

“They’re just preying on the elderly people,” said Bob Cowger, who’s lived in Navarre Village for about 10 years.

Residents in the manufactured home community own their houses, but pay monthly fees for the lots in the park. In September, Legacy Communities, LLC took over Navarre Village, but did not mention any increasing lot rents.

When several people tried to sell their homes, they discovered the company was more than doubling monthly lot rent for incoming residents. The steep hike has been driving away prospective buyers.

“Who would come in and buy a house and pay $850 or even $700 when your neighbors are paying $370 or $425?” said Christine DiSabatino, a realtor who has lived in Navarre Village for 5 years and helped sell properties in the community since 2007.

Bob Senften, who’s lived there 5 years, added, “We’re stuck. If we wanted to move, we couldn’t move.”

The neighbors said existing residents were told their monthly fees would go up by more than 8% when they renewed their contracts. More recently, they’re hearing the rent will rise by 14.9%, though they’ve received no official notice.

“It’s just all this uncertainty that builds up in people’s minds and the anxiety of it all. You just don’t feel comfortable staying,” Senften said.

The situation is similar to what residents at the Twin Lakes 55+ community in Elyria are experiencing. Several neighbors there reached out to News 5 in November to share Legacy Communities, which acquired the property in 2019, planned to raise monthly fees by more than 9%.

RELATED: Retirement community desperate for relief as monthly HOA fees soar

Monday, Twin Lakes residents confirmed they received notice the lot rent will rise by up to 9.6%. Neighbors in both communities said the increases cannot be justified by inflation or any improvements to facilities or amenities.

Many are living on social security and said cost of living adjustment doesn’t cover the reality of their rising housing costs.

“That’s all gone between utilities, groceries, the raising of your rent and everything else that’s gone up. The cost of living in social security is a joke,” said Megan Pasterchek, a Navarre Village resident.

Senator Brown writes to the company and Freddie Mac as the Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. The agency provides low-interest rate, federally subsidized loans to private firms, like Legacy Communities, to promote access to affordable housing, like manufactured home communities. But the Senator points out those companies’ practices can make the housing option unaffordable.

“I urge you to immediately halt rent increases for existing and new residents in your communities and meet personally with tenants in both Twin Lakes and Navarre Village to hear their experiences living in your communities,” his letter said.

You can read Brown’s full letter to Freddie Mac by clicking here and his letter to Legacy Communities, LLC by clicking here. He gave both entities a Jan. 9, 2023 deadline to respond.

Legacy Communities has not responded to News 5’s repeated requests for comment in the past month-and-a-half and Monday.

RELATED: 'It's paralyzing:' Neighbors in Stark Co. retirement community blast new owners for doubling HOA fee

You can watch News 5's previous coverage about Navarre residents concerned over rising costs in the player below:

Neighbors in retirement community blast new owners for doubling HOA fee

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