By Julia Brouillette (File Photo)
Laramar’s top brass spoke out for the first time this week, defending the company’s plans for Hunting Point after tenants mounted a months-long campaign to keep the rental properties affordable.
Since the south Old Town buildings changed hands in the spring, city officials have fielded complaints from residents whose rents and utility fees have increased. Tenants felt Laramar’s intentions were poorly communicated and that the city did little to help.
Until recently, the national property management giant has kept its dialogue with the city and Hunting Point renters out of the public spotlight.
“There was nothing to discuss with the media until we had everything in place,” said Laramar CEO Jeff Elowe. “Now that we do, we feel very comfortable discussing the plan in its entirety.”
Elowe said that the complex will remain relatively affordable while also offering cleaner, safer living conditions for tenants.
“It takes some time to plan for these projects and to do them the right way, so that there’s both a short-term and long-term impact,” he said.
Hunting Point staff members send biweekly letters to residents in an effort to keep them informed about current and upcoming renovations. But for some tenants, Elowe admitted, facility improvements do not justify double-digit rent hikes.
“There is a certain group of residents that — regardless of what we communicate or regardless of what we intend to do — they just feel that it should move in a different direction,” Elowe said. “There’s nothing we can do about that.”
Although Laramar will incrementally increase rents over a three-year period, Elowe said that payments will still be considered affordable in the region.
“Rents are going up and have gone up in the entire region,” he noted. “If you compare our rents to [other complexes] around us, ours have gone up at a much slower pace. Our goal is to remain more affordable than our competitors while offering the best amenities to our residents.”
The apartment buildings are slated for major renovations, beginning immediately with water pipeline replacements. While repairs are welcomed, construction notifications were not received far enough in advance, renters said.
“[Laramar] should account for the daily needs of the residents more effectively,” said resident Lauren Van Thiel. “As a working professional, simply having my apartment in a constant state of construction is highly inconvenient.”
Elowe said Laramar is working to ensure that renovations are completed in a timely manner, but the nature of the projects will require patience.
“There are a lot of logistics involved when we’re working in units,” he said. “It can’t be done overnight.”