Rent Raised 4x With No Warning

Not sure where to begin with this…

My name is Lily Meade. I am a young adult novelist trying to sell her first book. I live with my 64 year old single mother, my two younger brothers and my youngest brother’s girlfriend. We have two dogs.

My mother and I run Laurie Makes, a sewing business that started out selling fabric face masks last year. In 2020 we sewed over 10,000 masks to help protect people during the pandemic.

We live in extreme poverty and have been homeless twice before. We afford our rent through Section 8 housing assistance and before this month were paying around $500 a month.

We live in Tacoma, WA, a city rated as one the worst places in the entire country to rent right now. Because of gentrification and the expansion of Seattle as a tech haven, rich people have been flocking to our area and buying up homes in areas even locals would avoid as the “ghetto” ten years ago. I have watched every single one of my renting neighbors be evicted so the owner could renovate and sell their house. We’re the only ones left.

If we move out of state or to an area with a cheaper cost of living, we lose our jobs, local resources, and most importantly—I lose my state health insurance, which pays for a crucial medical treatment every three months that I am bedridden without. Without this treatment, I cannot work at all.

The day before yesterday, our landlord emailed us to let us know we hadn’t sent enough in rent, attaching a PDF of a notice he had received in August saying that starting in October our rent would increase from $480 to $2000. The only notice we received in August said it would go up $40 in September.

We spent all of yesterday emailing back and forth with housing and they confirmed that this was not a mistake and they have no intentions of reversing it. They would not explain why it jumped so drastically in a single month, nor why they sent two notices saying opposite things. They claimed they sent both notices in the same envelope, but I opened that letter myself and I promise you they did not.

They claim this rent increase was justified on the “projected” earnings of our family. We sent them our tax return for the mask making business, showing that we spent more in expenses than we made and explained that business has slowed since vaccinations have meant less masking, but that doesn’t seem to matter. They gave us numbers on the projected earnings of my brother (who works as an elder care aid for a Catholic Church) and my brother’s girlfriend (whose income goes solely to her schooling) as justification, though that implies guaranteed hours and job security neither of them have and still would not be enough to sustain this increase.

We asked them if the people with jobs moved out, would that lower our rent again? They said that if they moved out, the size of our housing voucher would change, so they would actually pay even less toward our rent. So the only solution to get them to lower what we pay would be for the working members of my family to quit their jobs.

Our only solution would be to buy our house, as we’d have a mortgage of around $1100-1300, which while still double what we paid before would at least be going into the equity and value of our home. Our landlord is willing to sell to us, he told us two years back that his company would be selling all their other low-income renting properties (mainly because housing agency changes were making it unreasonable and cheaper to just offload and sell). We’ve basically only been allowed to stay because he’s fought for us. He doesn’t want to see us unhoused again. He’s literally the only decent landlord we’ve ever had.

But because of gentrification, the value of our house is skyrocketing every day. It has jumped 60,000 alone in value just over the last year and every other house like it on my street has sold within days of being listed. The Redfin value is currently 330k, which would make even a down payment at least 40-50k.

I know it’s not realistic that we will be able to stay here. I know that my life is about to be ruined again and I’m probably going to lose my home, my ability to live together with my family, my dogs, and my health. I understand that the system is not built to value me or my potential. I accept this.

This GoFundMe is probably my fifth in as many years and I know my social capital is gone. I know that it’s ridiculous and embarrassing to ask for help again given that I keep trying but nothing improves. I apologize for the way being my friend may prey upon your sense of guilt and obligation. Please know that I love you no matter what. I will not value you any less if you can’t contribute.

The income from this fundraiser would go towards:
- $2350 per month for winter rent, so we can stay while we try to figure this all out (they’ll probably take the rest of their support away once we tell them my mom got a part time job too and if they learn of this GFM)
- legal expenses to see if anyone can help us
- A down payment to secure our home (long shot) or…
- Living expenses for if/when we become homeless again.

It was five years ago this week we were moving out of our last home and into a camper we parked in Walmart parking lots after spending seven months trying to find somewhere that would take us. We were homeless all winter before we found this place, and we only got it because of our kind landlord. I don’t think we will get that lucky again, and this time we won’t have housing assistance to help.

Thank you for reading. I am sorry about this. I appreciate you all so much.

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