Nashville, Tenn. (TN Tribune)–On Friday, April 1st a delegation of renters from Shelbyville, TN will travel to Elmington Capital’s downtown Nashville office to demand answers and safe living arrangements after being ignored and belittled by their local property managers.

Residents of Canterbrook Village (formerly known as Bedford Manor) are being temporarily relocated, building by building, while their 109-unit apartment complex is renovated.

About two weeks ago, a contract that Elmington had with the local Wyndham Microtel Inn & Suites was abruptly ended, and residents moved to the Shelbyville Inn – an operation that locals say is known for infestations, bed bugs, drug trafficking and other unsafe practices. With several weeks remaining before the apartments are all move-in ready, residents are demanding that Elmington find a safe place for them to temporarily live. 

“They need to treat us better. Even though we are in low income housing, we are still people. We are people who matter to other people. I want my children somewhere safe,” says one resident, Tia, who has been at the Inn for just two nights. She has split up her family just to avoid having to stay in at the Inn. Her daughter is sleeping on a family member’s floor, her husband is taking extra work shifts to avoid the hotel, and she is staying with a friend. “I slept with the dresser in front of my door and a knife in my bed the first night because you just hear people going in and out all night long.” The quality is just as bad. The electricity in her hotel room can only support two plugs, the bathroom is full of mildew, ceiling tiles are falling down, and the air vents are covered in grime. 

Residents are angered and frustrated by ongoing mismanagement and lack of communication from Elmington staff. After learning they had to move from the original Wyndham hotel, to a hotel 25 minutes away, to the Shelbyville Inn just 3 days later, they began collectively requesting fairer treatment. Residents submitted a formal letter, with support from the Bedford County Listening Project, asking for better communication and dignified temporary housing. All they have been given is lip service, disparaging remarks, and side deals for some but not all.

“They are treating us like zoo animals, giving us no notice about when we have to move and then putting us in one place then telling us we gotta be out to go to another place,” describes one seventeen year old resident who lives with her mother who is recovering from a recent open heart surgery. “The Shelbyville Inn costs $60 a night. I called the Best Western just down the road – a nice place – and asked them if they had openings for a dozen families. They do. Their price is $105 a night. So to Elmington, our family is not even worth the extra 40 bucks,” says Kim, another resident who has lived at the apartment for nine years.       

A delegation of tenants will travel to the Nashville office after not getting answers or support from the managers who are assigned to their apartments. They are asking for Elmington to work with them to find solutions, and to not put them up in a hotel that Elmington staff themselves would not want their own families staying in. 

One resident, scheduled to be relocated later this month, says she will have to pay out of her own pocket for temporary housing (while still being responsible for monthly rent) if she is forced to go to the Shelbyville Inn. “I’m saving up so I can try to find a house. If I have to go to Shelbyville Inn I’ll be using my savings to not go. I’m not going there to bring bedbugs home. It always feels like we are being penalized for living in subsidized housing.”

Shelbyville, TN, located an hour south of Nashville, is not immune to the substandard and affordable housing crisis that is wrecking middle Tennessee. As the housing market swells and pushes people from Nashville to Murfreesboro and further out, many of the same property management companies and owners are also reaching into rural areas of the state.

Shelbyville residents of Canterbrook Village – or what has always been known as Bedford Manor until a new owner changed the sign out front – are now asking their new managers from Elmington Capital for answers. Residents have reported living in the hotel rooms (and just one room, no matter the size of their family) for between two and five weeks, depending on the severity of repairs needed. The apartments, built in 1968, have been run down and under maintained. For years, residents have sounded alarms about a history of mismanagement, substandard housing, and unethical practices. Purchased by the California based owner Community Preservation Partners in June 2021, residents have been hopeful about a new direction, but have been largely left with dashed hopes due to poor management.         

The Bedford County Listening Project is a community organizing and advocacy group of working class people in Shelbyville, Tennessee. The Shelbyville Tenants Organizing Protection (STOP) Campaign is a tenant-led effort to reduce substandard housing and advocate for pro-tenant policies across Shelbyville.