The facility’s executive director, Robert Godfrey cited increased costs as the primary reason for these increases.
“I’m certainly empathetic… But it’s an unfortunate reality to business right now. Lots of people we do business with are now charging us fuel surcharges, for example.”
The Vanguard wrote in its commentary:
While I am empathetic to your cost concerns and understand that you are trying to run a business and make a profit, you also have to understand that you are running a business geared towards seniors. And when you run a business geared towards seniors, you are acknowledging that the residents there are on basically a fixed income. That means that they get only a 2.3 percent increase in their income–not near enough to cover an 8 percent increase, let alone for two years in a row.
When you are a business that relies on seniors for your profits, you have to recognize that the downfall of that market is that you cannot do things the way you would do them in other sectors of the economy. You cannot increase rents by more than their cost of living adjustments. Otherwise, what you will do, is put elderly people on the streets.
Finally, the Vanguard implored the Davis City Council and the City of Davis to step in to protect the vulnerable–and the most vulnerable are people on fixed incomes, some of whom do not have a lot of savings, and many of whom are not in great health.
At Tuesday’s Davis City Council Meeting, Councilmember Lamar Heystek stepped in and did just that.
“I want to talk about an issue that I think all the council has heard about, it’s the issue of the impending rent increases imposed by Atria Covell Gardens on the residents of that assisted living facility on Alvarado Ave. We’ve read about it in the Davis Enterprise, we’ve read about it on the internet, I have received phone calls and I have visited the facility to meet with the residents. Their concerns are very grave.”
For Councilmember Heystek this was an alarming development.
“Their rent increase averages 8 percent across the units and they have reached [as high as] 12 percent. They have experienced a rent increase of 8 percent on average last year.”
“I believe we have an issue that affects our most vulnerable citizens–they are our senior citizens.”
Following the articles last month, the Councilmember has had contact with this in the community on this issue.
“Members of that assisted living community have approached me and asked that I bring this issue to the city council. I do not come with a solution to the problem, I don’t have all the facts. I have tried to contact Robert Godfrey who is the executive director of the Atria Group.”
“I do come with an idea, I believe it is our necessity and our duty to at least consider the problem as presented by the Covell Gardens Residents’ Association and to act accordingly.”
Councilmember Heystek looked first toward a voluntary solution, a means by which to bring the members of the two parties together to have discussion and dialogue through the city’s mediation service. While this approach is voluntary, it has the potential at least to allow the resident to air their grievances and also the management to explain their rationale for the increase and the methodology by which it was created.
“I ask that the city council… request staff to invite both the represents of both the management of Atria Covell Gardens and the Covell Gardens Residents’ Association to engage in the City of Davis’ Community Mediation Service. I believe that this process is fair. It’s a process that is bilateral in nature. It would allow Atria to convey the financial considerations that justify the rent increase, to convey the methodology by which the rent increases of individual units have been calculated. It would allow the residents to provide their testimony to the rent increase in a formal venue mediated by a neutral party. It would allow both parties to negotiate the terms of the rent increase and negotiate terms by which future rent increases could occur.”
This also leaves open the door to other forms of action. However, Mr. Heystek clearly felt impelled to at least attempt to do something to help the situation.
“I believe it is important that we act, people turn to us because they believe we have the power to act. The least we can is ask staff to invite both parties to a fair mediation session. And so I make that request of council and I make that request of staff.”
The council as a whole agreed and thought this was a great idea to take advantage of the services offered in this city and perhaps draw some national attention to this sort of problem.
These rent increases are set to take effect at the first of the year and Councilmember Heystek suggested that if these voluntary efforts are not effective, they ought to consider other avenues to deal with this very serious problem.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting