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Most people don't think of the Virginia Department of Transportation as a landlord, but the state agency has owned Hunting Towers in Alexandria, two mid-rise apartment buildings, for several years -- part of a strategy to help facilitate construction of the Wilson Bridge. Now VDOT is ready to put the buildings on the market, a development that has many residents worried that their rents might spike or worse, that they may get evicted if a new owner wants to convert the buildings into luxury condominiums.
"I can actually find a place for myself," says Nahida Sultana, who has lived in Hunting Towers since 2008. "But people who have been living here and enjoying this neighborhood for a long time... it might be hard for them."
Alexandria Deputy City Manager Mark Jinks says the architecture of the 1950 building may be a saving grace that will help the city preserve the 530 units as affordable housing. The walls are reinforced concrete.
"Those walls are there," he says. "You can't put more bathrooms. You can't do washers and dryers. You cannot do central air. They have wall units."
Councilman Frank Fannon says he doesn't think the residents have anything to worry about.
"I just don't see a reality where a new landlord would come in and increase rates $500 or $600," Fannon says. "I just don't think it would bear in an old building like that."
Vice Mayor Kerry Donley disagrees. "If we do take the laissez-faire approach and just do nothing and let the market dictate, well I can tell you what will happen: we will lose these units forever."
Back at the towers, Tanjin Minar says residents have every reason to worry.
"It's human nature to get your home, you know, you don't want to just leave like the Great Depression," says Minar. "People left from their homes. If you read the Grapes of Wrath, they couldn't live in their homes and stuff."
VDOT is currently taking bids from potential buyers in an effort to determine the real market value.