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Lakeport residents being evicted, face time pressures

  • Erika Vollmerding, who has lived at 79 Elm St., in Laconia for the past five years, holds up the eviction notice she and other tenants received on Monday morning, giving them until Aug. 31 to vacate their apartments. Adam Drapcho / Laconia Daily Sun

The Laconia Daily Sun
Published: 7/28/2021 3:46:14 PM

Nearly 20 Lakeport apartment dwellers have been told that they are being evicted – apparently in preparation for another development project – and have five weeks to find new places to live.

A Belknap County Sheriff’s deputy delivered the eviction notices Monday morning to residents living in a 14-unit apartment building at 79 Elm St., and a smaller, abutting four-unit building at 21 Fore St.

The buildings are owned by Paugus Fore I, a limited liability corporation created two months ago, and managed by Scott Everett, according filings with the state Secretary of State’s Office.

Everett is in the process of restoring the Lakeport Opera House in Lakeport Square, and building a multimillion-dollar mixed commercial-and-residential complex on the block adjacent to 79 Elm St. and 21 Fore St.

The notices delivered to the tenants state the landlord plans to demolish and/or renovate the two buildings, and that they need to vacate their premises by Aug. 31.

Calls left with Everett seeking comment for this story were not returned Monday afternoon.

Erika Vollmerding, who has lived at 79 Elm St. for the past five years, says she and her neighbors don’t know how they will be able to find other apartments they can afford on their limited income in that limited amount of time.

Vollmerding is disabled, and like her neighbors relies on a government voucher program for low-income people – called Section 8 – to help pay her rent. Under the program, 30% of her $784 monthly disability check goes toward her rent with the balance paid by the agency which administers the Section 8 program.

“We’re down to wondering if we’re going to be homeless,” Vollmerding said.

She said she and some of her neighbors are exploring what legal options they have, and also plan to reach out to Gov. Chris Sununu’s office for help. But Vollmerding said time is critical.

Tenants who are currently on the Section 8 program could lose their eligibility in 60 days, which means she and the other displaced tenants would have to apply afresh for the program unless they can get into another Section 8-approved apartment within two months after leaving where they are now.

Vollmerding said there is a months-long awaiting list for those seeking to get into affordable apartments.

The vacancy rate for apartments in Belknap County is 1.2%, according to a study released by the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority earlier this month. A vacancy rate of 5% is considered a balanced market for tenants and landlords. In comparison, both the U.S. and Northeast vacancy rates are at 6.8%, according to the authority.

Asked about the ability of the tenants to find new places to live anytime soon, Carmen Lorentz, executive director of Lakes Region Community Developers, which works to provide affordable housing in the area, said, “It’s going to be tough.”

Vollmerding said about 15 people live in the three-story building at 79 Elm St. Six apartments in the building are vacant, she said, the previous landlord stopped renewing leases several months ago.

Paugus Fore I bought the two buildings for $1 million on June 12, according to documents filed with the Belknap County Registry of Deeds. The deed states that the properties were purchased from Ozanam Place, but the P.O. Box address on the deed shows up as belonging to Belknap-Merrimack Community Action Program.

The notice delivered to the tenants on Monday said those who remain in the buildings beyond Aug. 31 could be given a court summons ordering them to leave, in which case those tenants would have the right to appeal their case to a judge.

Vollmerding said the tenants received a letter about 1½ weeks ago from Paugus Properties, another of Everett’s entities, advising them to start looking for new apartments immediately because the eviction notices would be forthcoming soon.

Under state law, a judge could deny the eviction request, or approve it but issue a stay which would give the tenants more time to stay in the apartment while they look for a new place to live.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information, visit collaborativenh.org.

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