Brenda Wishart, director of recruiting for Aspen Square Management, did not return calls for comment. In a previous interview with The Daily Tar Heel, she said some residents did face a one-time $25 rent increase, and Aspen Square has worked hard to communicate with residents.
But rising rent is just one of the challenges the complex’s low-income residents say they endure.
“There are cockroaches all over the place,” said Martinez. “You go to bed and you feel things biting you like ticks and fleas. You go to make something in the kitchen at night and you turn on the light, and there’s all these things running around.”
Martinez, a Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery employee, said he was kicked out of his apartment four months ago, even though he is a documented resident and always paid rent. He said the owners of Collins Crossing accused him and others of loitering outside apartments.
Rafael Gallegos, Chapel Hill/Carrboro Human Rights Center associate director, said he believed Friday’s turnout was lower than expected.
Few residents participated in the student-run protest, although many watched from their windows or doorsteps.
“I was hoping to see more local residents,” said Gallegos, “But then again, I can’t expect them to put their livelihoods in jeopardy.”
Gallegos said the fight for better living conditions is hard since many residents have no where else to go.
“If you were too critical, they could condemn the apartments. It makes it even harder for people to complain,” he said.
Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton said he has heard conflicting reports about rising rents from Collins Crossing owners and residents.
“Certainly the new owners have been doing a lot to try and improve the quality of housing at Collins Crossing,” he said. “I just hope they can find a way to do it without displacing the people who live there.”
Gallegos said small steps such as Friday’s protest could give residents the hope to speak out.
“Maybe (the protest) looks rowdy; maybe it looks like a waste of time. But if you live there, and you see that, that has to give you some sort of hope,” he said. “There are people that are fighting for them.”
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