Tenants forced out by development

Posted at 11:39 PM, Apr 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-01 23:39:38-04

Tenants being pushed from their homes by a multimillion dollar development are out of time.

Told to vacate by March 31 they came to NewsChannel 5 for help.

The community redevelopment agency for the city of West Palm Beach is buying six properties on the city's north side around, and including, the historic Sunset Lounge for $2.4 million.

The city plans to remodel the Sunset and bulldoze the rest of the buildings to create a public park.

Tenants still living in those buildings tell NewsChannel 5 they have nowhere to go and now city leaders are saying they will provide a safety net.

"I was very nervous, I was very scared," said tenant Lisa Brown referring to her state of mind on March 31 as she waited to be evicted. She lives at 800 Henrietta Blvd. in an apartment building purchased in the deal.

She and other tenants say they've been searching for weeks but still can't find another apartment they can afford.

"I don't want to leave and be on the streets and me and my two kids to be completely homeless," said Noesha Wright who lives upstairs from Brown. At just 20 years old, Noesha is facing it all on her own for the first time after losing her mother in February.

"It's been a very hard process. It's just been one thing after another and I just really wish she was here right now," Wright said with tears in her eyes."

NewsChannel 5 went down to West Palm Beach City Hall to speak with the executive director of the community redevelopment agency to ask what it has done to try and make this transition as easy as possible on tenants.

"Well the first thing that we did is we gave the seller plenty of time to vacate the buildings," said CRA executive director John Ward.

The contract between the city and the seller says that the buildings must be handed over empty. Ward says if necessary the 90 day closing time in the contract can be automatically extended to 120 days if needed.

"You think that you have been more than fair to your tenants?" asked NewsChannel 5's Jared Werksma.
"I know I have," answered Joel Kaminester, the owner of all six properties being purchased in the deal.

Kaminester said he allowed all of his tenants, who are already on month-to-month leases, to skip paying rent in March so they would be in a better position to move.

"Most tenants have been relocated. I've been working with a few the needed extra help with agencies," Kaminester said.

The housing stabilization program is offered by the city of West Palm Beach. It offers up to $3,000 for any residents of West Palm Beach who are facing a vision as long as they don't make more than 50% of the median income in the city.

"Maybe I might not meet the criteria for them to help me," said Brown.

If that turns out to be the case with any of the tenants affected by this development deal the community redevelopment agency will step in.

"My board has directed me to make sure they get relocated appropriately," said Ward.

NewsChannel 5 will follow up with the tenants and the CRA to confirm that happens.