Residents at Bellevue apartments, faced with rent hikes, unsure of next steps

Haley Parnell
Haley Parnell
Haley is a reporter for LINK nky. Email her at [email protected]

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City Center Street apartments in Bellevue was once a senior living center.

Then LCH 1 LLC, based in Texas, purchased it in 2021 and changed its name to The School Haus, a moniker derived from the building’s former life as Bellevue High School.

School Haus, like many other properties around Northern Kentucky, has undergone renovations to create a more upscale space, ultimately increasing the rent.

Beverly McKenzie has lived in the historic building for 14 years. When it was still considered a senior living facility, she paid $575 a month in rent. After the new company took over, McKenzie said, her rent increased to $950 a month.

“It’s just devastating,” Mckenzie said. “I cried for three days when I got the notice, and it was a notice; I haven’t seen a human at all.”

At 75, Mckenzie is on a fixed income, and had a choice to make: pay the extra $375 a month or put her name on the waiting list on other senior living facilities in the area and cross her fingers.

She went with the extra $375 a month.

“They have no concern for nobody,” Mckenzie said. “Strictly business.”

McKenzie must have an elevator in the building where she resides because she can’t physically walk up and down stairs. Because she doesn’t drive, she receives rides to church, doctor’s appointments, and the grocery store, so moving far from Bellevue wouldn’t be an option for her.

McKenzie said she has enjoyed her 14 years at the apartments and would like to stay.

“I just don’t know if I’ll be able to make it or not,” Mckenzie said. “At this point, I’ve got enough money saved back to where I can pay August (rent). But after that, the following month, I don’t know what I’m going to end up with.”

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She said she has watched as her neighbors have left the complex because they can’t afford to live there any longer.

“A couple people just couldn’t afford the raise, so they had to leave,” Mckenzie said. “It’s just heartbreaking.”

One of those people is Tina Ansara. After living in her apartment for five years, she decided to move.

“I was paying $750, and they raised it $400, and they wanted us to pay for parking,” Ansara said. “They wanted $30 a month (for parking). And anyone who had pets they wanted you to pay a $150 deposit, and I have two pets. And then they wanted $35 a month (per pet).”

She had moved into the complex when it was a senior living center with her mother. Ansara said her mother passed away while they were in the apartments, but she could stay because only a certain percentage of the residents had to be seniors.

Ansara moved out of School Haus on June 30 and moved in with a friend until her new apartment would be ready. She said it was “very hard” to find any place where rent was close to what she paid before.

She said her rent at the new apartment, which is outside of Bellevue, is about $1,200 monthly, including pet fees, washer and dryer hookups, etc.

Ansara said she had to move all her things into a storage unit until the new place was ready, and moving fees were also a serious expense.

“The moving fees, oh my God, they’re just as bad as the rent,” Ansara said. “It cost me like $1,400 to move just a two-bedroom apartment.”

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Unlike Ansara, who chose to leave, Mary Jo Watkins was served a vacate notice by LCH 1 LLC on the grounds of “non-renewal of lease.” Watkins speculates she got the notice because she is on Section 8 housing assistance, though she said the property management company told her they do not need a reason not to renew her lease.

Watkins vacate notice

Watkins pays $850 a month for a two-bedroom unit. She said she was not given the option to pay more in rent; she just has to leave.

School Haus Regional Manager Carla Kelly told LINK nky that ownership, which has a Texas address but no known phone number, declined to comment.

“I guess all of us who lived here, our leases had run out. They were year to year. So, I guess legally we were month to month,” Ansara said. “So, their reason for evicting people, you know, ‘Well, we just decided not to renew your lease. You’re not being evicted. We just decided not to renew your lease.'”

Watkins moved into the apartments four years ago when it was still a senior living center with her son so he could attend Bellevue High School.

“They won’t let me stay. I have Section 8, I’m disabled, and I have my son,” Watkins said. “I adopted my great nephew. He has this critical heart disease. I moved here in Bellevue just for the high school because it’s a small independent school. He has a learning disorder.”

She said more than anything, she was upset she was being forced out of her apartment because her son was doing well at Bellevue High School and only had one year left before he graduated.

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Watkins also has him enrolled in a program at Sun Behavioral Health. The center comes to her apartment to pick him up. She said if they have to move, she is unsure what will happen with the program.

“I have no place to go. I have been looking. I have churches that are looking for me the schools. Everybody’s trying to help,” Watkins said. “We can’t find anything; if I do, they don’t accept Section 8.”

She said all the places she can find have a waitlist until October or November.

Watkins was supposed to be out of her apartment by July 31, but she said she had nowhere to go and no one to move her, so she stayed. She has since been served with an eviction notice.

“This is coming down; I might be leaving all my belongings behind and living in my car,” Watkins said.

She also has three cats she doesn’t know what to do with if she has to leave with no place to go.

Because of the eviction, Watkins said she would lose Section 8.

According to Peopleslaw.org, a housing authority cannot terminate a Section 8 voucher unless there is “An eviction from Section 8 housing where a judge found a serious violation of the lease.”

Watkins has been working with an attorney to try to receive 30 extra days in her apartment until she can find other accommodations.

“It was such a nice little community; some people didn’t even lock their doors. It was that nice of a little community,” Ansara said. “Lots of the people that lived there had gone to school there and would sit around and tell stories and stuff. It’s a shame.”

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