Nearly 100 people were ordered this week to leave their southeast Colorado Springs apartments because of asbestos hazards — leaving scores of families scrambling to find a place to live as the holidays approach.
Residents of Thrive at The Incline — previously known as the Shannon Glen apartments — have until Dec. 14 to leave, according to notices posted on doors Wednesday.
A follow-up letter urged residents to leave even sooner — requiring them to move out "immediately" and take only their essential belongings, such as pets, clothing, medication, important papers, family heirlooms, work or school supplies and life-saving essentials, due to the contamination.
Residents said they have not been told what happened to cause the asbestos contamination, but the owner of the complex has been renovating it since buying it and several others in southeast Colorado Springs lat year. The owner, Slipstream Properties of Denver did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.
The notices left families shocked and uncertain of where to turn for housing in a city with fewer vacant apartments than at any point in the last three years, and rents higher than ever before.
"It's just been a nightmare," said Lauren Mors, 27. "They're basically putting a bunch of people out of their homes right before Christmas, which is not cool. It's right before the holidays.
"It's really heartbreaking. We don't know what to do."
The letter offered residents $200 per each permanent occupant for meals, clothing and toiletries, as well as a hotel room for each family "until you can be relocated to a semi-permanent or permanent home reasonably similar to your current apartment."
Several of the residents said they were told that the offer of a hotel room was for one week only.
The mass displacement marked another difficult chapter for a set of apartment complexes in southeast Colorado Springs that have been regarded for years as a crime- and bug-infested blight on the community — even as people repeatedly turned to them for much-needed affordable housing.
A turning point appeared to come in May 2018, when all seven apartment complexes owned by Terry Ragan were sold to a Denver buyer, Slipstream Properties, for $102.25 million.
The sale left tenants hopeful that conditions would improve, and fearful that doing so would cause rents to rise. Within months, that exact scenario came to pass.
Shortly afterward, Slipstream began extensive renovations to every unit in the apartment complexes. In the process, tenants began being forced out of their units, building by building, while crews made repairs and upgrades over the next few years. Some tenants were offered units in other Slipstream-owned buildings.
Further details of the latest mass displacement — by far the largest known at a Slipstream property — were not released Thursday.
An office worker said the 192-apartment complex, 260 N. Murray Blvd., was about half-full when notices were issued this week.
Mors, who moved into the complex in March, had little idea of where she'd go next.
Thrust into a new housing search, Mors said she could no longer afford to see her 6-year-old daughter in Las Vegas, as originally planned.
She was among several tenants offered units in other apartments managed by Dunmire Property Management for Slipstream. But multiple people said they feared having to move once more if they stayed with the same landlords.
"All we want is our money back, because we don't trust them," Mors said.
Daniel Pelayo, 24, said he spent the day searching for apartments — calling a half-dozen complexes but coming up empty on two-bedroom units for him and two relatives.
That's likely due to fact that Colorado Springs area's vacancy rate was 5% in the third quarter of 2019 — the lowest figure since 2016, when it was 4%, according to data from the Colorado Division of Housing and the Apartment Association of Southern Colorado.
Never has it been as expensive to rent here, either.
Rents hit another record last quarter — rising to an average of $1,231.24 a month in the Colorado Springs area.
Standing outside his front door, Jesse Moreno said he planned to spend the night at a La Quinta hotel provided by his landlords.
Others said they planned to wait at least a week, while searching for a new place to live.
"We're pissed off, man," Moreno said. "It's rough, because I have a 5-year-old autistic son, so this change to everything is going to crush his mood. It's uprooting everything."