Athens citizens protest against increased rent prices

On Wed. Aug. 31, a group of tenants from Lexington Heights and Highland Park, along with many Athens community members protested across the street from a meeting between Prosperity Capital and tenants, holding signs and yelling that “housing is a human right.” 

Inside the unit, a meeting took place between representatives of Prosperity Capital Partners, an investment company based in Florida, and tenants in Lexington Heights who receive Section 8 vouchers for federal rent assistance. 

Demonstrators rallied against rent increases made by Prosperity Capital after the purchase of several properties in neighborhoods around Athens in July. 

Juanita Hulin, a resident of Highland Park for the past five years, attended the protest. She says that this rent increase puts undue stress and pressure on her as she tries to find a home. 

“I am a single mom, I work, and I try to do all that I can to provide for my three girls,” Hulin said. Her daughters are now facing housing insecurity as Clarke County’s school year begins.  

“I got this letter two weeks after school started. And my kids now are nervous, and they have been stressed out, not knowing if we’ll have to relocate in the middle of the beginning of the school year,” Hulin said. 

Tenants at the protest also listed demands for Prosperity Capital that they hope will be put into action.

Tenants of the affected properties came together and issued the following demands: 

– Provide new leases to all tenants with reduced rent and accept section eight and other sub size housing vouchers. 

– Do not raise any rent until all necessary renovations and maintenance for health and safety have been addressed.

– Cap the amount of future rent increase by a maximum of 10% per year. 

– Remove the surcharge for paying online and allow other forms of payment including check payments. 

– Provide necessary maintenance and access to all amenities including trash.

– Provide relocation assistance to anyone who wants to move such as money for deposit, time to find housing, and return security deposit. 

This sudden increase of rent has affected many people with children and families. 

“I have been trying to keep my girls strong in the midst of this heart hurtful situation. And I’m asking that prosperity capital partners and strategic management consider the families that have children in these residents. My rent was not behind, my rent was on time, I have not broken any laws in my residence,” Hulin said. 

Other people present at the protest were concerned community members such as the Rev. Laura Patterson. 

Patterson believes that these acquisitions and rent raising goes against God, which Randy Lawrence, one of the owners of Prosperity Capital, uses frequently in his promotional material. Lawrence calls himself the real estate preacher and has a podcast of the same name. He considers himself to be heavily connected to Christianity. 

“He branded himself as the real estate preacher and says that God is blessing him and his investors through what they do, but what they do is  make low income folks in places where they don’t even live homeless,” Patterson said.

Brian, an organizer who wanted to be identified only by his first name, provided some clarification for the next steps in addressing tenant’s rights. 

“We can try to create a tenant union so that the different apartment complexes are organized and continue this fight moving forward, not just for the people that are being evicted right now, but also for all issues moving forward, because a lot of places have issues with lots of maintenance issues, so they’re able to come together collectively. Then they can get a lot more done than just one single voice.”