NEW BEDFORD — Tenants of a 24-unit building are scrambling to find a new place to live after a developer bought the property with the intent to renovate it and hike up the rent.
Joe Quigley, a 72-year-old retired teacher who lives in the brick complex at 189-193 Elm St., sees his predicament as a classic case of gentrification. With the completion of South Coast Rail on the horizon, he said he thinks developers are getting ready to welcome a wave of Bostonians.
“The city is getting all set for the new people to come in and enjoy the beauty of New Bedford, but it’s the people that kept New Bedford from dying who are just getting displaced,” he said. “Why not fix this building up for locals?”
Quigley said he planned on living at the Elm Street property for the rest of his life — until the landlord knocked on his door at the end of September to fill out paperwork for the new building owner.
Residents only found out that their landlord had been working with the developer after the deal was already signed. At the end of September, the new landlord told them they had until Nov. 1 to move out.
“Had we been told they were selling the building, that would have given us time to look,” Quigley said. “So to sell it and say you have 30 days to get out — come on, that’s ridiculous.”
TI Partners V paid $2.4 million for the complex. The company is the fifth in a string of LLCs that appear to be subsidiaries of another real estate company called Terra Incognita Partners.
It isn’t clear who owns the group of companies. State filings list their legal point-of-contact as Registered Agents Inc., a firm that serves businesses “seeking privacy, security, and high-end business maintenance solutions,” according to its website.
One filing shows the company’s signatory as Mauricio Rauld, a California lawyer whose firm specializes in real estate syndications — that’s when a group of investors pool their money to buy real estate. Rauld’s website advertises that its services help investors to “build your real estate empire.”
Isaiah Osofisan is listed on all of Terra Incognita’s state business filings — he told tenants that the company hired him to manage its new property. Osofisan initially agreed to an interview with The Light but did not respond to subsequent phone calls and emails. The property’s previous owner also did not respond to a request for comment.
Terra Incognita and its subsidiaries recently bought several other apartment buildings in New Bedford. The investors have poured almost $4.9 million into the real estate here in just the last two years. Osofisan has closed deals on real estate worth millions more for other LLCs in the area, but it’s not clear if those are linked to the Terra Incognita group.
The company plans to make “significant changes” on Elm Street by fully renovating the property, according to an email Osofian sent to tenants. He also said that once the construction is complete, the rent will be two to three times as much as what tenants are paying now, according to Quigley.
In Quigley’s apartment, the walls are covered with prints of political cartoons he’s drawn. Model ships sit on the windowsill. Plastic dinosaur skeletons, figurines of the Obamas, and a saxophone are among the possessions he will have to decide whether he wants to bring to his next apartment — if and when he finds one.
“At first, you panic,” he said. “But my thing is, what are they gonna do, kick me out?”
Quigley hopes that when the developer officially files for eviction next week, a housing court judge will let him stay until he’s able to find another place. In the meantime, he’s struggling to find a rental he can afford on his fixed income. The sale has pushed Quigley and his dozens of neighbors into what was already an extremely tight rental market.
The line was out the door at a recent open house Quigley went to — and it had some familiar faces.
“I’m running into other people from the apartment building, looking for the same apartments I’m looking at,” he said. “So there’s competition, just from one building”
Once he does find an apartment, there will be extra costs. The developer promised to pay for moving expenses within 10 miles of New Bedford, but it will only provide twice the tenant’s current monthly rent to put toward deposits. Quigley had lived in the building for years with few rent increases, so he was paying $750 a month. Double that amount almost certainly won’t be enough to pay for first and last month’s rent and a security deposit on his next apartment.
Even though he’s facing an imminent eviction, Quigley said he won’t let it bother him as he tries to find a new place.
“Whatever happens happens,” he said. “When I look at these places, it’s only, ‘Can I afford it?’”
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