COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)–A group of renters says they’re being priced out of the Columbus apartments they’ve called home, in some cases, for years. Affordable housing advocates said this is part of a problematic trend that’s been unfolding over the past few months.

Damon Blanchard, Shontae Bennett, and Cassandra Culver said there’s much to be desired when it comes to the living conditions at the Bexley Commons apartments.

“A lot of people have bugs. Stuff is falling apart. These have been here since ‘66,” Blanchard said.

Bexley Commons is what they can afford in an increasingly expensive housing market; Blanchard pays $450 per month in rent, Culver pays $565 and Bennett pays $570.

The renters said they found out in July that their apartment community on E. Livingston Ave. was purchased the previous month by a capital investment firm with plans to renovate.

“Year after year — the conditions that we were in — we definitely need the renovations,” Culver said.

On the evening of October 1, the tenants found notes on their front doors.

“Effective November 1, 2021, your rent will be $800 dollars,” the tenants were informed.

“The current pricing at Bexley is extremely under the market at this time,” the note said. “We know that rent increases are unpleasant, but sometimes necessary especially when we are working to give our residents the best in the area.”

To these tenants, the rent increase is more than unpleasant.

“They’ve basically just pushed us out with little notice,” Blanchard said.

“I’ve started noticing this trend back in July and August, it has continued unabated,” said Joe Maskovyak, an attorney who serves as Affordable and Fair Housing Coordinator for the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. “Unfortunately, I do not have good advice for (the tenants). In Ohio, there are no rules, there are no laws that regulate rent increases, it’s all governed by the lease.”

Rarely, Maskovyak said, do leases allow for rent increases before the term has expired.

Maskovyak said lately, he’s gotten a lot more calls from tenants saying they’ve been priced out of their homes by new ownership. Maskovyak attributes the trend to the current housing market, which has seen skyrocketing property values in recent months.

“(Landlords) are deciding, well, I can sell high — higher than I probably will ever be able to do before, and I can get out of the market with a big increase,” Maskovyak said. “That is pure profit.”

Central Ohio rent assistance resources

The tenants who spoke with NBC4 at Bexley Commons said they were not allowed to renew their leases when they were up, and are living on month-to-month terms.

To help tenants who can’t afford rent, COHH-Ohio advocates for investment in more affordable housing options, but until those options are available, Blanchard and his neighbor don’t know where they’ll live.

“There’s going to be a bunch of homeless families out here that have nowhere to go,” Blanchard said.

“The City of Columbus grew by 119,000 people from 2010 to 2020 – that’s 32 people per day,” said Jennifer Fening, the assistant director of the Columbus Department of Development. “With this growth is projected to continue, we must act as a region to grow our supply of housing and improve the diversity of available units. The City of Columbus is working to develop a long-term housing strategy to ensure we prepare for this growth so that may provide safe, stable housing for all Columbus neighbors.”

The new owner of Bexley Commons is Vision & Beyond Capital Investments, a company based in Cincinnati, where it owns more than 100 properties according to its website. The company did not respond to a voicemail or email from NBC4 seeking comment on the Bexley Commons project.