CHS reported on Capitol Hill’s soaring rents last year amidst growing demand for places to live in Seattle’s walkable core. This week, the Stranger’s Marti Jonjak has written about a different form of rent increase around the Hill. Here’s what happened when her 20th Ave, 1927-built apartment building The Prince of Wales was purchased by a new owner with plans for improvements:
Rents at the Prince are suddenly skyrocketing. While previous rates for its studios and one-bedroom units ranged from $600 to $900 a month, the new owners are jacking up rents an extra $315 to $670 a month. That’s 45 to 90 percent. Many tenants, such as Lind, say they can’t afford to stay. At $350 more per month, her increase is 44 percent.
This all began on October 16, when a development company called Briarbox purchased the Prince of Wales and hired management company Pacific Living Properties (PLP). Since then, PLP has distributed notices every month announcing that rents will increase in 60 days. About 15 units have received notices so far, though not everyone’s been hit. Some wait for the inevitable; others relocate of their own accord. But the building is quickly emptying. Of 32 units, 20 will be vacant by February.
As Jonjak reports, the new owner of the Prince of Wales after this October’s $3.45 million purchase is in the midst of overhauling the entire building, unit by unit, in a project with a construction budget just under $200,000, according to DPD records. The plan also included the addition of six new basement units in the building.
The result of the rent increases, the Stranger says, is tenants moving out, opening up the building for construction and saving the owners of the LLC now listed as the holders of the property — real estate investors Chris Gurdjian, Jeff Miller and Jarrett Johnson — the money they would have needed to spend on relocation assistance. It’s all legal. Anybody without a lease given proper notification will need to pay up or move out.
With increasing market opportunity and pressure for the Hill’s apartment buildings, more properties will change hands and more tenants could face similar situations — though the huge increases at the Prince of Wales might be hard to match with many of the Hill’s already jacked-up rents. You can also add factors like the looming implementation of new rules for unreinforced masonry structures in the city to the list of pressures that could push for projects like this around the Hill. Worth more than ever, central Seattle’s old building stock is getting an investment-compounding upgrade.
For renters, having a solid lease in place in one protection but can be easier said than done. More will likely end up like Joniak and looking for a new place to live. Will it be anywhere near Capitol Hill? For many, no.
The numbers the investors are betting on, however, say that there are plenty more where she came from.