According to our reader housing survey, rent is increasing for people in Williamson County. A majority of respondents said their rent increased by more than 10 percent in each of the last two years.
From those responses, and according to housing data by the U.S. Census, for the little more than 11 percent of people who rent, the cost of rent is increasing. We spoke to several renters in Williamson County said they feel like they are being priced out of a home and a future here as rising home prices bring up rents.
There are not many options for affordable housing in Williamson County (meaning not government assisted housing, but housing for low and middle income earners.) Renting has always been an option for young professionals not yet making enough money or not yet ready to buy a house. But for those renters we spoke with, renting in Williamson County has become to feel like a trap.
There are numerous apartment complexes around the area, and they usually offer some kind of amenities like a pool and tennis courts or in some cases a gym. Some of these include Sussex Downs, Ashley Court, Meadowview and Southwinds in Franklin, and the recently-in-the-news Landings in Brentwood, and Dwell McEwen and Viera in Cool Springs, along with many others. These types of complexes are usually owned by a corporate leasing company- for example Del Webb owns Sussex Downs- and many are advertised as quasi-luxury, no-worries living. Most require a decent credit score and a clean criminal background and a monthly income of triple the monthly rent. For a one or two bedroom apartment, which make up the bulk of these, rent can be anywhere from $750 a month to more than $2,000.
A., Chase and Lauren each live or lived in one of the many apartment/condo complexes that can be seen throughout the county. All three have lived in one of these for at least three years.
A. has lived in the same two-bedroom condo for four years, with garbage included but not water, electricity, cable or rental insurance. Mindi lived with her two kids in two different apartments over the last five years, while Lauren used to, but ended up moving away and buying a home in Rutherford County. Chase has lived in a one-bedroom apartment for the last three years, and had his rent increase by more than 10 percent each year.
They would rather not have their last names included in this story in case their negative comments about their landlord might jeopardize their living situation.
“A lot of discretion seems to be left up to the front-desk leasing specialist,” said Chase. In many cases, the leasing specialist may live in one of the units as a perk of the job and is the face of the specific complex. “There does not always seem to be rhyme or reason to some of the things I have seen done here. I don’t necessarily trust that what I say won’t be held against me.”
Ever Increasing Rent
In each of the past four years, rent has increased for A. and her neighbors.
A’s rent increased almost 50 percent over that time- mostly in the past two years. Yet, she said, her amenities have not gotten better and in some cases have gotten worse.
“Our rent used to just go up sort of with inflation every year- when I moved in it was $885 a month,” A. said. “The next year it was $885 again. Then it went up to $963. But in the past two years it has skyrocketed. Now, for the same two-bedroom apartment that cost $885 per month to rent in 2014 I will have to pay more than $1,263 this year. And nothing has been upgraded. All of my appliances are at least 10, 15 or 20 years old. Our circuit breaker was faulty and for a few months the power would randomly repeatedly turn off but they kept insisting it was a problem with my dryer. It turned out to be a problem with the complex’s equipment. They almost charged me for the electrician to look at it, and would have if it had not been their fault.”
With their rent, and the rent of their neighbors, going up so much each year, saving becomes harder. Many renters ultimately have a goal of owning a house. But saving for a down payment, these renters said, has become almost impossible.
“I make good money for my age,” A. said. “And I have better-than-average credit. But I don’t have any savings. I decided to rent for a few years while I saved up for a down-payment on a home but now all the money that would be savings goes to increased rent. I could move to somewhere like [a different apartment complex] but that place is disgusting- it is in even worse shape than mine, older, not that much cheaper and even less responsive to its tenants.”
Lauren lived in a Franklin apartment complex for three years before she was able to buy a home, but she had help.
“I was able to get help with my down-payment, so I was able to get a home in Rutherford County,” she said. “But it would have been extremely hard otherwise. Saving had become impossible- it was all going to the rent increases.”
Chase recently moved, but not by choice. In his former complex, eight units were destroyed in a fire last year.
“Before they burned down it was about $1,000 a month for the two-bedrooms. They are rebuilding them exactly the same, of course with new appliances and what not, but they are going to rent them for $2,000 a month now. When I heard that I could’t believe it. It is absolutely criminal. They are making money hand over fist off of us, and don’t even pretend to give us what they say we are paying for.”
“Our pool just opened, but it is disgusting- there is not even a skimmer for residents to clean out all the leaves and dead bugs,” he said. “There was one last year but it broke or something and now there is just a pole hanging up with no net on the end. There used to be a tennis court, but when a storm caused a tree to fall down and break part of the fence around it a couple years ago instead of rebuilding the fence with the insurance money they just tore down the tennis court, and claimed they were replacing it with a dog park. Well, they fenced in two small areas, with gates that don’t even latch right, and they planted new sod where the court had been but now it is more mud and dirt than grass. Are you kidding me? It costs like 10 cents for grass seed, but they won’t even spend it on that. Where does all my money go every month except into someone’s pocket? I’m all for an honest profit but at least part of my rent should go towards basic upkeep.”
In the dog park areas, he said, there are dispensers for doggie bags that also have waste receptacles attached below for the bags.
“The bags have been out for weeks now, and the [expletive] is literally overflowing out of the receptacles,” he said. “If that is not this complex in a nutshell I don’t know what is. Not as advertised, and all the crap they are sweeping under the rug is just about to overflow.”
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