Rent increases outpace Social Security in St. Augustine

Dave Houser – St. Augustine, Florida

I’m terribly distressed over the annual 4% annual lot fee increase that I’m afraid will price me out of my home in the Coquina Crossing community in the coming years. I moved into this community after visiting as a journalist for “Where to Retire” Magazine. I was a freelance journalist for many years, writing for ELS publications about their  various locations and campgrounds.

I am an active member in the Homeowners Association here. This community has about 500 homes and is a very cozy spot. The little houses are attractive and worth the money because previous owners invest in the homes. The community is vibrant, there are lots of activities with a gym, club, weekly club groups, shuffleboard club, a tennis court and even a basketball court. Furthermore the place is safe, I never have to worry about burglaries. It is a really fantastic social network for seniors. However, there’s an issue in my community about the lack of adequate maintenance and capital investment in roads and public areas on the part of ELS.

If they are going to mow the grass then they should maintain the weeds too. I have to spend at least two hundred dollars a year to maintain their property. I think if they own the land they should take care of everything that grows on it. Perhaps more importantly the yearly rent increases were not made apparent to me when I bought my home. There is an annual four percent increase but social security hasn’t gone up with the rent which puts me under a lot of economic pressure.

I am currently on social security, I try to maintain my lifestyle but I am not able to absorb the increases because my social security doesn’t go up with the increases. I have relatively few economic burdens, no children, and a divorce, but I am still really feeling this pressure.

ELS doesn’t outwardly oppose the Home Owners Association, they aren’t aggressive but they just won’t respond to our complaints. They have corporate call back and say that capital expenditures in the community are in line with needs so we shouldn’t be complaining. They don’t want to spend anymore than they have to. It isn’t the most welcoming feeling, to look at it from that standpoint.

I am pretty lucky comparatively speaking. I still receive royalties from photographs with Getty images and a London based photo company that represents photography in Europe. I still to do freelance journalism and online publications for travel sights. It keeps me busy and I make a fair income, but the lot fee increases are really scary, especially when you take a calculator to it. My rent has increased from 470 to 740 per month.

I really hope ELS will repair what they have neglected and stop pushing so many seniors in these communities into economic insecurity and fear. If manufactured home communities, like my own, could achieve rent-stabilization many of these conditions would be alleviated.