Wake County commissioners called out Chapel Hill developer Daniel Eller Monday for his continuing push to evict residents from his Forest Hills Apartments in Garner. In addition, all seven commissioners promised to personally spend time helping the low-income residents find new homes.
"If the landlord is listening, I advise him strongly not to start proceedings," Commissioner John Burns said at Monday's board meeting.
Residents of the complex are again in turmoil after Eller posted notices last week indicating that they had to vacate by April 30 or face eviction—an apparent turnaround from an agreement announced by Wake officials last month, in which Eller agreed to let the residents stay on until June.
Officials and advocates started asking questions in March, when Eller first told Forest Hills residents they'd have to leave by April 1 or pay market rents that were many times the subsidized rents most pay. After an outcry, Eller backed down, telling Wake County commission chairman Sig Hutchinson that residents could stay until June 15 at subsidized rates.
The notices he sent to residents last week made no mention of that extension, however.
Eller maintains that his company has acted in good faith and that plans haven't changed. "We have gone out of our way to be reasonable and accommodating, but we have a fiduciary responsibility to pursue the course that best protects our interests in the property, including our legal right to regain possession of the apartment units," Eller told the INDY in an email Thursday.
However, in an email to Wake officials, Eller wrote that those who had been told to leave by April 30 would reach the end of their leases on that date and would not be allowed to make further payments. Those who stayed without paying would see their legal status change and would become eligible for eviction. Residents who spoke during Monday's public hearing—some shedding tears of frustration—said the complex is now refusing to accept rent.
"This notice is sneaky, dirty, and underhanded, and it shouldn't have happened," says community activist Octavia Rainey.
This article appeared in print with the headline "+GOOD FAITH."