Tenants With Disabilities Filing Suit Over Sale Of Seattle Apartment Building

Jul 3, 2014

A group of disabled and elderly tenants being priced out of a Seattle apartment building are striking back.

Several residents of the Theodora Apartments in Ravenna have filed suit under federal fair housing laws. 

The Theodora Apartments were built in 1965 with federal subsidies to provide housing for people with disabilities. The 112-unit property is located across the street from a public library branch and has easy access to Metro bus lines and grocery stores.

A nonprofit group called Volunteers of America owns the building and also offers subsidized meal service and housekeeping. But the group has entered an agreement to sell the building to Goodman Real Estate, a private developer.

“And we’re getting the boot. We got a letter last August saying that we have to leave,” said Peter Metzger, one of approximately 27 tenants still residing at Theodora.

The residents, some of whom are decades-long tenants, have banded together to try and stop the sale with a lawsuit. They say Volunteers of America did not adequately pursue nonprofits buyers who could have preserved the building as low-income housing.

Eric Dunn is an attorney with the Northwest Justice Project, which took on the case.

"We think that if VOA had actually made those efforts or would make genuine good-faith efforts to preserve this property, that they would be successful and this building could remain affordable and functional housing for low-income people with disabilities," he said.

Eliana Horn, a community organizer with the Tenants Union, says this is the third low-rent building in Seattle where she has organized against a takeover by Goodman Real Estate. The other two are the Downtowner (now the Addison on Fourth) and the Lockhaven Apartments in Ballard

“Those are just three examples of what’s happening across the city, which is that this development push is pushing out low-income tenants, often people of color, people with disabilities, seniors, veterans," Horn said. "Those folks are being pushed out of the city. And the question we need to ask ourselves is what kind of a city do we want to be? And is this going to be a city only for the wealthy?”

The plaintiffs hope their lawsuit will stop the Theodora’s sale to Goodman and pave the way for another nonprofit to run it.

Goodman and Volunteers of America refused to comment on the litigation.

But VOA says the property needs significant investment and can’t be maintained as is. The group says no other nonprofits made offers on the building during an exclusive bid period, and it is providing assistance to residents to help them find appropriate new homes.