Community Rallies Behind Those Facing Eviction in Belmont Apartments
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - On Sunday, demonstrators marched from the Belmont Apartments to the Downtown Mall chanting to show their solidarity. The rally was an emotional situation for many of those living in the Belmont Apartments as they face eviction. Some of those people are disabled, elderly or are low-income families.
As they marched to City Hall on Sunday, they chanted confidently about knowing their worth and condemning the property's owner.
“This is happening, and it's happening right here in Charlottesville,” said Antoine Parker.
Parker lives with his wife and one of his six children in the Belmont Apartments. When they received notice back in March that the property was under new ownership and their lease would be terminated. They didn't really have a plan b.
“It’s caused some stress in and out of the house, depression has certainly set in with me and my wife,” said Parker.
But some community members were there to help.
“I hope it's uplifting to them. I know that several of them are just so heartbroken about this situation and some of them actually just didn't feel up for the march for example,” said Elaine Poon, with the Legal Aid Justice Center.
Dozens marched Sunday from the Belmont Apartments to City Hall.
“Our goal is to get Drew Holzwarth to come back to the negotiating table and to agree in writing to say there will be no evictions at the Belmont Apartments and that he will keep rents affordable,” said Laura Goldblatt, member of the Charlottesville Low Income Housing Coalition.
After the march, demonstrators spoke about various options Holzwarth, the property's owner, has instead of evicting dozens of people.
“I think we lose what makes Charlottesville, Charlottesville. We lose what makes us unique when we start to displace people who have been here for a very long time,” said Goldblatt.
However, it appears the eviction process will be going forward leaving many, including Parker, with few options.
“It’s been a really depressing situation in that we've been here for 6 years in these apartments and now all of sudden to have to uproot your children, your wife, to find another place,” said Parker. “The crisis is real. The affordable housing crisis is real.”
Tenants of the apartments were expected to be completely out of their units by Sunday. The Legal Aid Justice Center is trying to work with the property's owner to see if he will consider selling the property or agreeing not to displace any of its residents.
Charlottesville Anti-Racist Media Liaisons Press Release:
A wide-ranging coalition of local non-profits, faith leaders, and advocacy groups join the Charlottesville Low-Income Housing Coalition (CLIHC) in their support for the residents of the Belmont Apartments. The coalition will come together at a rally and march on Sunday May 5th starting at 5 p.m. The Belmont Apartment residents are at risk of homelessness and displacement; several of them have severe disabilities, some are elderly, and some have lived in their apartments for over 30 years.
The list of groups participating includes the Alliance for Interfaith Ministries (AIM), Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregations Together (IMPACT), the Charlottesville Human Rights Commission, the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Young Democratic Socialists at UVA (YDSA), Charlottesville Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR), Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC), Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice (CCPJ), Black Lives Matter-Charlottesville, Anarchist People of Color (APOC), and Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ).
This broad show of support for the Belmont Apartments’ residents testifies to the increasing recognition of Charlottesville’s full-blown affordable housing crisis, and the community’s acknowledgment that it shares in the responsibility to address it. We cannot stand by and allow our neighbors to be displaced.
The Rev. Will Peyton, rector of St. Paul's Memorial Church and executive member of IMPACT stated at its April 2019 direct action event, “the current housing crisis in this community is sending a clear message, every day, to thousands of our neighbors, and the message is, ‘You don’t belong here’ … As long as our neighbors are receiving that daily message, this community is not characterized by justice. Decent housing for most is not good enough. Housing security for some is not God’s intention for us. A community of safe, stable homes is the community God is calling us to build up, a community where every child’s home is a good place to grow and rest and play and where every elder’s home is a place of safety and dignity; a conviction that justice for some is not justice at all.”
Our community is determined to find alternatives to the potentially dire negative health and economic consequences residents will suffer if they are evicted from their homes. CLIHC’s position is that owner Andrew (“Drew”) Holzwarth needs to allow Belmont Apartments’ residents to remain in their homes and to keep rents at their current affordable rates.
Unless the owner decides against removing residents from their homes, the city will lose 23 units of affordable housing. Rather than investing in his community and neighbors, Mr. Holzwarth sent renewed notices to vacate to the residents on Friday, April 19th which reinstated his May 5th deadline. Such notices are a prerequisite to eviction.
Members of the groups listed above, alongside other supportive community members, will gather at the Belmont Apartments, 1000 Monticello Road at 5 pm on Sunday, May 5th before marching to the Free Speech Wall. At approximately 6 pm, speakers will address the crisis confronting the residents of Belmont Apartments and the affordable housing crisis in Charlottesville.
We will come together to insist that residents determine the fabric of our City and our values, and that we stand in support of our most vulnerable neighbors. On May 5th, this broad coalition will speak with one voice to tell politicians and developers that our City’s most valuable asset is its people.