More tenants at Concord’s Cranmore Ridge given ultimatum – pay more for a new apartment or move out

  • Dean Christensen has lived at the Cranmore Ridge complex with his wife and four-year-old daughter, Grace, for almost three years, but they have already started packing, ontheir way to Fort Myers, Florida, where he found nice apartment in a gated community for less than $1000 a month. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Dean Christensen has lived at the Cranmore Ridge complex with his wife and four-year-old daughter for almost three years, but they have been packing for a move to Fort Myers, Florida, where he found an apartment for less than $1,000 a month. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Grace Christensen, 4, in her bedroom at Cranmore Ridge in Concord on Tuesday, March2, 2021. The family is moving to Florida instead of being forced out for renovations to their aparttment. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Grace Christensen, 4, looks back at the bedroom she’ll be leaving at Cranmore Ridge in Concord on Tuesday. Her family is moving to Florida after being forced out for renovations to their apartment.

Monitor staff
Published: 3/4/2021 1:55:06 PM

Recently, moving trucks have been a fixture in Cranmore Ridge’s parking lot.

They started arriving about a month ago after the owners of the Concord apartment complex informed tenants their leases would not be renewed. Letters, hung on each unit’s doorknob, offered residents a choice: move into a renovated unit and pay hundreds more a month in rent, or move out in 60 days.

Dean Christensen had lived at the complex with his wife and four-year-old daughter for almost three years when the letter appeared at his door. When he called to ask why, he said the management told him they planned to renovate older units like his.

Christensen had already absorbed a $225 rent hike – from $1,175 to $1,400 a month – that came shortly after the Manchester-based Brady Sullivan Property group bought the seven-acre apartment complex in late 2019. Paying $1,625 a month to live in a freshly renovated apartment is just unfeasible, he said.

Spurred by the letter and a lack of affordable rentals in the Concord area, Christensen, his wife, and his daughter, will be saying goodbye to the Granite State in a couple of weeks. They will be on their way to Fort Myers, Florida, where Christensen found an apartment in a gated community for less than $1,000 a month. The decision to move out of New Hampshire wasn’t easy – all six of his children live in the Northeast and he has lived in New Hampshire since 1977.

“We’ve been there for almost three years and we’re trying to make it a home,” he said. ” We’re trying to raise our daughter there.”

But the longer the soon-to-be retired automotive technician looked for apartments in Concord, the clearer it became that housing options for lower income folks were scarce to none. When he found income-based housing in his price range, he said the waiting lists to get a unit were upwards of two years.

While looking for apartments, Christensen checked his own building’s listing out of curiosity. Photos of Cranmore Ridge online highlighted slick hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances and high-tech thermostats and lights. The photos showed one of the newly renovated apartments that Christensen couldn’t afford.

Many of the people Christensen had come to know at Cranmore Ridge have also scrambled to find a new place to live, including a man with two kids that moved into the building in September.

“He’s still looking,” Christensen said. “He has until the end of this month and he’s still looking.”

Officials at Brady Sullivan did not respond to a request for comment.

As of May 2020, about 1% of the rentals in Merrimack County were vacant, a rate that has steeply declined over the past 10 years, according to the 2020 New Hampshire Residential Rental Cost Survey Report. A balanced housing market typically has a vacancy rate between 4 and 5%.

Elliot Berry, a lawyer for New Hampshire Legal Assistance, said the pandemic has made it even more difficult to find an available apartment as fewer people have decided to move. According to data from moving company platform Hire a Helper, New Hampshire saw a 66% decline in moves between March and June 2020, the largest statewide decline in the country.

“You have to believe that things are very very hard for those people who are getting evicted,” Berry said.

The ultimatum posed by the Brady Sullivan Property group falls into a legal gray area. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium, which extends at least until the end of the month, clearly bars landlords from evicting tenants for not paying the entirety of their rent. The moratorium does not apply to tenants who destroy property or pose a threat to other residents, but it makes no mention of evictions on the grounds of renovation.

The legality is further muddled by the fact that many of the tenants faced the non-renewal of a month-to-month lease, rather than the termination of a year-long lease.

When the Brady Sullivan Property group bought the property, not only did they increase rents, they replaced one-year leases with month-to-month agreements. It’s not exactly clear how the moratorium applies to non-renewed leases but, to Christensen the effect is the same – pay more than you can afford or move out, no middle ground.

Christensen has started packing up his family’s belongings. He was able to bargain an extra month of moving time by explaining he had just recovered from foot surgery. Still, he intends to move out by April 16 . He said he’s seen what happens to tenants who don’t move out on time – everything left inside gets tossed.

“They ... roll out dumpsters out front of the apartment buildings, and they just take it,” he said. “They don’t care what it is, they just throw everything away. When you look at the stuff that’s in there it’s, it’s people’s lives they’re throwing away.”

Teddy Rosenbluth bio photo

Teddy Rosenbluth is a Report for America corps member covering health care issues for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. She has covered science and health care for Los Angeles Magazine, the Santa Monica Daily Press and UCLA's Daily Bruin, where she was a health editor and later magazine director. Her investigative reporting has brought her everywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to the hospitals of New Delhi. Her work garnered first place for Best Enterprise News Story from the California Journalism Awards, and she was a national finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists Best Magazine Article. She graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology.

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