CARRBORO — The beat of drums and guitar folk rhythms set the backdrop for nearly 50 people to protest rising rents Friday at Collins Crossing apartments.
“Housing is a human right! We won’t leave without a fight!” they yelled to bystanders and passing traffic on Jones Ferry Road.
Massachusetts-based Aspen Square Management bought the former Abbey Court Condominiums in June from Tar Heel Companies in Raleigh. The company is renovating the Jones Ferry Road apartments and plans to raise the rates as leases are signed or renewed to pay for long-neglected maintenance, Aspen Square spokeswoman Brenda Wishart has said.
Wishart did not return a call seeking comment Friday. Aspen Square manager Lora Perry referred all questions to Wishart.
The second protest since Nov. 3 drew a large number of UNC students but few residents.
“Many of them are afraid if they are seen here management will be less likely to renew their leases,” said Rafael Gallegos, assistant director of the Chapel Hill and Carrboro Human Rights Center. “They are oppressed, and that many aren’t here speaks volumes.”
Resident Santiago Hernandez thanked the protesters for standing up for him and other residents. He wasn’t able to renew his lease, but the management is letting him stay on a month-to-month basis, he said.
“It is because of the support you have provided in the past that (we) have seen improvement from the management,” he said, with Gallegos interpreting.
UNC sophomore Victor Acosta and Carrboro resident James Williams organized the event to keep pressure on the Collins Crossing management and raise awareness of the effect rent increases are having on the large numbers of Hispanic and Karen immigrants who live there. The HRC co-sponsored the event.
A two-bedroom apartment has rented for roughly $500, but the Collins Crossing website shows it starting at $725 a month. A three-bedroom apartment now costs $940 or more.
The increase worries many residents, who fought the previous management over needed repairs, safety concerns and what they viewed as harassment by police and managers. Just a few hundred dollars more could price many of them out of a home, resident Nancy Castanon said.
A Carrboro police officer patrolling the protest declined to comment Friday except to say he was there to make sure everyone stayed safe.