Residents displaced out of Belmont Apartments

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Geraldine Smith has been living at Belmont Apartments for 33 years. She said she was shocked when she received a lease termination notice.

"I am so stressed out and upset," said Smith. "It's just, I don't even have the energy to do what I need to do to get myself ready to get ready to move."

In a letter received on Feb. 28, residents were told that Belmont Apartments, previously owned by Core Real Estate, had been sold to Piedmont Holdings III, LLC., and that the property will continue to be managed by BMC Property Management.

In another letter on March 5, 14 low-income residents were told that their leases will terminate by May 5, 2019, and that they must vacate their homes by then so renovations can be done.

The letter goes on to say the residents are welcome to live at the apartments in the future, but they believe the rent will be too high for them to return.

Smith's health does not make it easy for her to simply up and leave.

"I had a brain aneurysm two years ago and I'm still recovering," said Smith. "I'm just as off balanced. I need help with walking and everything."

Many of the residents paying month-to-month affordable leases at Belmont are elderly or have a disability. Thomas Holden struggles with Stargardt disease and is progressively losing his eyesight. He said it makes it harder for him to find a new place to live.

"Looking around Staunton, Lynchburg where rent is less expensive than it is here, but still running into issues because I'm on disability," said Holden.

He said a lot of questions are up in the air for him.

"Where am I going to wind up? Is there going to be a place where I can go shopping? Is there going to be public transportation? If there is transportation, will I be able to get to it or will I be out in the sticks," asked Holden. "Frustrating is the least I can say about it."

Both Smith and Holden said they had never planned to leave before because they fell in love with the community. Now they feel betrayed.

"It hurts," said Smith.

"I just think what they're doing is wrong," said Holden. "The owner should take a good long look in the mirror and try to figure out if he or she is still human."

The owner of Piedmont Holdings III, LLC. is Drew Holzworth. Neither the company nor BMC Property Management has gotten back to CBS19 on removing residents.

Elaine Poon, managing attorney at the Legal Aid Justice Center, said they are working to help residents, but that they also hope they can talk to Holzworth.

"I think that he may not have met some of the individuals who are living there," she said. "I hope that when he hears some of their stories that he will kind of understand where the community is coming from in terms of how important it is to keep communities like that in the city of Charlottesville."

Poon said if people are facing displacement, they can reach out to Legal Aid for advice for what their rights are.

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