Tenants seek new homes after developer buys low-income apartment building

Dozens of people may soon be out on the street after a St. Paul developer bought an older apartment complex and plans to renovate the entire building.

Located on the corner of West 7th Street and Wabasha, Viking Apartments houses low-income individuals and those who've struggled with addiction. But by May 5, tenants will have to find another place to live. This also means the restaurant on the bottom floor, just/us, will be closing. 

Juanita Shaving Bear has lived at the apartments for two years. She’s on disability and has struggled with homelessness in the past, but it’s what she can afford and she keeps it tidy.

“I’m on a limited income and $500 is what I can afford. This is the only home I’ve had of my own,” she said.

When she received a notice underneath her door back in February, she was stunned.

“I saw ‘vacate,’ and I literally just started to cry because, as a woman who has been homeless for quite a few years, this is a real big blow,” she said.

Tenants living in the 34-unit building received the letter from CCI Properties in St. Paul and were given three months to vacate their homes while the property management company renovates the building.

They've been told they can re-apply to live in the units once the updates are complete, but many are fearful the higher-end units will be out of their price range.

“It’s disgusting, and I think it’s very unfair,” tenant Nick Steeves said.

Steeves is an ex-felon who, years ago, had nowhere to live. At the time, Viking was the only place that would accept his application. He now owns a barbershop and just put an offer on a house.

“I just moved out,” he said. “I got scared of the ending part and I didn’t want to deal with all that stress.”

However, many tenants said they were approached by people working for different affordable housing groups who are trying to help them get temporary places to live. In the next few days, tenants will meet to get pointed in the right direction.

Statement from the Office of St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter:

"Ensuring all of us in Saint Paul can access safe, stable, and affordable housing is vital to our city’s success,” said Peter Leggett, Communications Director for the City. “That’s why the City is all in on addressing our housing needs through investments like our new $10 million housing trust fund, which will create new affordable housing units, maintain existing units, and help protect our residents through fair housing policies.”