NOVATO (KPIX 5) – More than 100 low income senior citizens living in affordable housing in Novato are worried they’re being priced out.

Novato’s senior citizen population grew by more than 30% in the past ten years. Tenants living in Villas at Hamilton worry their rising rents may render them homeless.

“I don’t want to move out of Marin County and I shouldn’t have to if I don’t want to,” Theresa Metzger, a tenant at Villas at Hamilton, said.

Villas At Hamilton complex in Novato (CBS)

“It’s clear that the Villas at Hamilton, which is low income for seniors, has become unaffordable,” John Geoghegan said.

Geoghegan is working to organize the tenants living in his building. He points out many of them aren’t able to advocate for themselves and he wants to make sure they’re not pushed out.

To afford his apartment, Geoghegan is working two jobs. His landlord raised the rent three times in the three years he’s lived there. Some of his neighbors in their 70’s are still working, afraid that if they retire, they won’t be able to make rent.

“We can’t keep pace, it’s just a question of time until more of us get evicted or have to leave because we can’t afford it,” Geoghegan said.

Some tenants say they have already been served eviction notices after failing to pay their new rent price. Tenants say there have been 13 rent increases in 16 years.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, for housing to be considered affordable, tenants should not be spending more than 30% of their income on rent.

Right now, more than half of Novato’s low income tenants spend over 50% of their income on housing. At Hamilton Villas, some tenants are spending as much as 144% of their income on rent due to the recent rent hikes.

What’s happening at Hamilton Villas is legal. The complex was built, in part, with financing obtained through California’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit, or LIHTC.

LIHTC rent levels are set by HUD based on what’s known as area median income, or AMI. As incomes in Marin County continue to rise, that means the rent can, too. The AMI jumped 15% last year.

“Marin is one of the wealthiest counties in the country, so the disparity between what you need to do to qualify as low income to live at the Villas at Hamilton compared to the median income in Marin is huge,” Geoghegan said.

Geoghegan and his neighbor Theresa Metzger say they’ve been homeless before. Hamilton Villas pulled them out of their housing insecurity. Now, they’re hoping they won’t have to spend what should be their golden years working to stay off the street.

“I’ll have to start looking for another place to live. I won’t be able to afford it, it’ll be too much,” Metzger said.

“I don’t think our representatives understand that the end result is seniors living in affordable housing projects are getting driven out right and left,” Geoghegan said.

The owner of the property, Affordable Housing Access in Newport Beach, did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

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