Residents say affordable housing complex ‘feels like a prison’
By Amy Bounds
August 3, 2009
LAFAYETTE, Colo. — Jeremy Carlisle says a new rule at his housing complex means his two kids can’t play outside “unless you’re basically holding their hands.”
“It doesn’t feel like our home,” said Carlisle, who has a 4-year-old and a 9-year-old. “It feels like a prison. It’s summertime. Kids should be outside. It’s just ridiculous.”
He’s one of several residents at the Eagle Place Townhomes, a complex of 60 affordable housing rental units on Cimarron Drive off South Boulder Road, upset about a new policy that they say prohibits kids 15 and younger from playing outside unsupervised.
A letter from property manager Emily Dickey, dated July 9, states that “all children are required to be supervised at all times.” The letter also warns parents that children found unattended outside will be sent home.
Dickey declined to comment.
Darlene Molnar, regional manager for property management company Riverstone Residential, said supervision is required because of safety concerns.
She said a child recently got his foot stuck in an air-conditioning unit outside the building, but the parent couldn’t be found and the property manager had to call 911 for help.
“We just want the kids to be safe,” she said.
She said the rules aren’t as restrictive as the residents appear to believe and that supervision of children is mandated in the lease — and is a requirement for those who lease units in every property managed by the company.
But residents said the rules go beyond requiring basic supervision. Though the letter doesn’t specify an age limit, they said the property manager told them that the supervision rules apply to anyone younger than 16.
Craig Root, who has a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old, said he’s received letters saying kids can’t play in the parking lot, ride their scooters on the sidewalk in front of the units or play on the grass between the units. They also must be with an adult to play on the property’s playground.
He said as many as 30 kids would get together to play before the new rules.
“If you want to have a community, why would you stop community behavior?” he asked.
Other residents upset about the rule asked not to be identified, saying it’s tough to get into affordable housing and they’re concerned they could be evicted for speaking out.
One mom said her 15-year-old son wasn’t allowed to read a book on a porch swing, while her 12-year-old daughter babysits younger children in the complex and can’t take them outside to play.
“It’s crazy,” she said.
Another mom, who’s lived at Eagle Place for almost two years and has three children, said her 12-year-old daughter is responsible enough to play outside alone — and to watch her two younger children.
She said the property manager recently warned her husband that he couldn’t sit on the porch and watch the children on the property’s playground.
“We have to be right there with them,” she said.
Kids now wait until after 5 p.m. — when the property manager leaves — to play outside, she said.
“Before, kids would all play together and have fun. Now it looks like a ghost town.”
She said her lease doesn’t include specific rules about unsupervised children but does include a clause that tenants who don’t follow rules can be evicted. When their lease is up in October, she said, they’re frustrated enough that they plan to move.