I had a few minutes between customers, so I called Lorraine back to ask about the rest of the crew at 44 Cherry St. Once again it took several calls before she called me back. She was in a crabby mood, too, so I asked her what was making her so mad.
“It’s my GD landlord!” she yelled. I had to move the phone away from my ear. “He’s doing a renovation of the building and has raised the rent.”
“Oh no!” I replied. “Can you afford to stay at 44 Cherry Street?”
“Luckily, I have lived here longer than anyone else, so he grandfathered me in. He’s not raising my rent, but of course he is not only NOT redoing my apartment, but he also refuses to make any repairs. My bathroom sink drips constantly and the noise makes Frederick nuts, but I don’t even hear it any longer. The water bill is included in the rent, so the jackass is hurting himself by not fixing the drip.”
“Do you have any idea why he is on this mad renovation kick?” I asked.
“Yes! The real estate market in Black Mountain has gone crazy! We tenants have been paying $750 a month for our one-bedrooms forever. He hasn’t raised the rent, but of course, he hasn’t made any repairs either, so the building is falling apart. I guess some friend of his told him he was nuts charging so little, but he knows that renters won’t pay $2000 unless he updates the apartments. $2000!! Can you believe it?”
“$2000!” I repeated, incredulous. “In that old building??”
“Right? It’s nuts! But most of the longterm rentals in this town are now vacation rentals because the owners make more money that way. You can’t blame them, but it has left a huge hole in the rental market. Renters can’t find anywhere to live and they are forced to pay much more money.”
“That’s awful! So what changes is he making?” I asked.
“He’s tearing out the kitchens and bathrooms, putting in all new appliances, cabinets, and countertops and adding a coat of paint. He’s been watching HGTV and follows Chip and Joanna Gaines. Everything will look like the renos they do down to the shiplap and vintage-look accessories from China. He’s buying all that junk from Target. These newcomers will love it. They love their places to look exactly like everyone else’s. I hear he’s even buying all white furniture from Ikea.”
“Sounds pretty generic!” I said. “Boring. Probably will attract boring new neighbors. So what happened to all your old neighbors? Where did they find new places to live?”
“I’m not sure,” she said. “I can’t imagine where they will find something they can afford. Certainly not in Western North Carolina.”