Tag - apartments

Multifamily Housing Industry Thought-Leaders to Launch Their Centennial Edition Webcast

Multifamily Housing Industry Thought-Leaders to Launch Their Centennial Edition Webcast

NEW ORLEANS/ Sept. 8, 2017 (StlRealEstate.News) — The multifamily housing industry is a highly fragmented market, which has seen a vast array of changes over the last decade. Economic shifts, technological innovations, and changing social trends have disrupted the status quo, but the market is still thriving. Today, 39 million Americans call an apartment home, and the industry is responsible for contributing over $3.5 billion to the economy daily.

Through it all, two multifamily industry thought-leaders — both with unique positions in the market — have gotten together monthly for the past ten years to discuss the rapid changes as they happen. On Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017 at 3:00 p.m. ET on MultifamilyBiz.com, the largest media platform in the multifamily housing industry, the pair will present their 100th webcast together, reaching a truly iconic milestone in their passion project.

Property management expert, Ernest F. Oriente, of PowerHour and multifamily technology innovator, Kerry W. Kirby, CEO of 365 Connect will launch their Centennial Edition Webcast, Tech Trends and Topics, to discuss the shifts they have seen in the market over their decade long collaboration. The webcast will explore topics the duo has delved into over the years including mobile, social media, UX design, SEO, vendor relationships, and recruiting.

Kirby explained, “Ernest and I have been sitting in a front row seat for the past decade, watching the trends in the market. We started this journey with a mission to not only provide information on the latest trends, but also to deliver an educational component. There are over 12 million professionals that serve our industry, and we have been both honored and humbled by the magnitude of audience attendance each month, as well as by those who utilize our webcast’s material to better prepare themselves for the evolving changes in the multifamily housing industry.”

Oriente responded, “We both continue to discover new innovations in the industry as we highlight time-tested methods that better serve residents, build teams, and manage processes. We strive to bring a balance of diverse content to our audience so they may accommodate the unprecedented growth in the industry, fueled by the next generation of renters.”

In their special centennial webcast, the duo plans to examine the significance of technology in modern multifamily housing operations and innovative growth strategies for gaining traction in the market; all while nostalgically recalling their hot, and not-so-hot predictions of the past. With a combined experience of almost 50 years in the multifamily housing industry, Oriente and Kirby are pleased to present the 100th episode of their informative, thorough, and thought-provoking webcast.

Registration for the webcast is available at MultifamilyBiz.com.

MULTIFAMILYBIZ.COM + POWERHOUR WEBCAST SERIES: Founded by multifamily housing industry thought-leaders Kerry W. Kirby and Ernest F. Oriente, the MultifamilyBiz.com + PowerHour Webcast is a monthly series of comprehensive, educational, and leading-edge programming. The webcasts are presented and hosted on MultifamilyBiz.com, the largest media platform for the multifamily housing industry, which delivers news, events, and resources to more than one million monthly visitors. Explore: www.MultifamilyBiz.com

ABOUT 365 CONNECT: 365 Connect was founded in 2003 with an unwavering commitment to transforming how apartment communities market, lease, and retain residents. As a leading provider of award-winning technology platforms for the multifamily housing industry, 365 Connect delivers a fully-integrated suite of comprehensive solutions that automate marketing, simplify transactions, and serve residents after the lease is signed. The 365 Connect Resident Lifecycle Platform allows its clients infinite expansion, robust integrations, and the ability to revolutionize user experiences. Explore: www.365connect.com


Portland developer shifts upscale apartments to condominiums

Portland developer shifts upscale apartments to condominiums

PORTLAND, Maine/July 10, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — A Maine housing developer has changed course on a project, selling 63 planned Portland apartments as condominiums rather than renting them out — another halted plan signaling a cooling in the upscale rental market.

Vincent Veroneau, president and chief executive officer of J.B. Brown & Sons, says the decision to redirect the project was made mostly because other apartment projects have absorbed some of the pent-up demand for rentals.

The Portland Press Herald reports (http://bit.ly/2u4TPRZ ) city leaders have been eager to add rental housing after a shortage of units led to rapid rises in rents that forced some people to leave the city.

According to landlords, rent prices have stabilized recently — but rental housing still remains in short supply for low-income renters.

Kushners face heated trial over suburban Jersey mall project

Kushners face heated trial over suburban Jersey mall project

WASHINGTON/July 7, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — Days after a seaside reception for his father-in-law’s presidential campaign, Jared Kushner set out to pitch a deal to a small-town mayor: Kushner Cos. would transform an aging shopping mall into a live-work destination, bringing culture and commerce to a scraggy stretch of the Jersey Shore.
The mayor, a retired police officer, viewed it as a brilliant offer his town couldn’t refuse. But hundreds of Eatontown residents turned out in opposition, packing borough council meetings last year to protest the Monmouth Mall expansion as a giveaway to Kushner.
Kushner soon won approval to build 700 apartments atop his mall parking lot as part of a $300 million expansion deal— an agreement that now is the subject of a heated lawsuit set for trial Monday.
Before joining the White House as a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, Kushner was CEO of his family company and was widely credited with its expansion into Manhattan. But he was just as busy building political loyalties and securing municipal changes to benefit the business in his home state of New Jersey.
Plaintiffs in the mall suit are claiming town officials privately negotiated with the Kushners for half a year without telling the community, then rushed a vote on new zoning rules that benefited only Kushner’s company after the deal already had been rejected.
“People are mad. They’re mad at the mayor, and they’re mad at the backroom deals,” said plaintiff and longtime resident Sara Breslow.
The town’s attorneys say officials allowed ample time for debate before voting. And the attorneys for the Kushner Cos. say the mall was in “steady decay” and that those opposing the expansion want to block the company from building affordable housing for needy residents.
Other real estate deals Kushner has brokered in New Jersey are under attack, too, with residents also claiming local politicians are too accommodating to the powerful real estate family.
In Jersey City, the Kushners had hoped for a 30-year local tax break for two residential towers, but residents took to the streets in February and the family recently withdrew its application. Farther down the shore, in Perth Amboy, the status also is shaky. The Kushners have been pressing the city to approve a downsized version of a 22-building waterfront community the family promised years ago, but that is uncertain given resentment over stalled construction and a lawsuit from condo investors who feel misled.
In Eatontown, the Kushners are giving every sign that their Monmouth Mall development is secure. Residents say land surveyors started digging into neighbors’ front lawns despite the impending trial.
In August 2015, Kushner’s parents threw a garden party honoring Trump at the family’s block-long oceanside estate in Long Branch, where officials soon will vote on a proposal to give the Kushner Cos. and a real estate partner up to $25 million in taxpayer-backed financing for a resort development. Days later, he and his family went to nearby Eatontown to push their plan to build 1,200 new apartments and a hotel at the mall.
Kushner had a tough sell. Not only did consultants say the new apartments would add as many as 1,460 people to the town of 13,000, but the housing would be all rentals, not owner-occupied units. Town officials had long worried about striking the right balance between renters and homeowners.
Most daunting, Kushner needed to change municipal zoning rules because no dwellings were allowed at the mall.
“Jared Kushner took the lead, he introduced himself and spoke about his company,” Republican Mayor Dennis Connelly said in a description of the initial pitch, according to borough council meeting minutes. “He laid out what is going on at Malls in general and why he believes now is the time to make a huge change to the investment.”
Over the next few months, lawyers for the town and Kushner Cos. met privately several times, and the company supplied studies that indicated their proposal would boost the economy and have minimal traffic impact.
“This type of mall reimagining has helped boost the tax base of towns across the country, and will do the same for Eatontown,” Kushner Cos. spokesman James Yolles told The Associated Press when asked for comment.
Keeping negotiations private backfired, feeding residents’ suspicions that Connelly wanted to push Kushner’s project through by limiting debate. After news of the plan finally broke in the local press in February 2016, records show that one council member emailed Connelly to suggest people be allowed to comment in an upcoming meeting, saying residents felt “the project is being rushed.”
Connelly shot back, “I will not be bullied into thinking that we need to have several debates.”
More than 100 residents packed a public meeting that April, with many arguing that Kushner’s scaled-back plan to build 800 apartments would cause gridlock and drain social services in the sleepy borough. A Kushner representative declared the family had phoned to kill the deal and, as residents clapped, walked out of the meeting. Connelly pivoted and recommended that the council vote no.
Judy Rutan, a caterer whose backyard flanks the mall, had been worried that the value of her home would fall with apartment blocks going up next door, so was relieved to think that the expansion was over.
“Our whole future base is invested in our home, and we are not financially well-off,” said Rutan, a Republican. “It’s not just my home. I raised my kids here, and this mall project is going to make us lose the whole feel of the town.”
Residents thought the development was dead but, behind the scenes, Connelly said he asked Kushner Cos. to tweak it. Soon, the company put a slimmed-down proposal before officials including up to 700 apartments, and no hotel. That was 500 fewer units than its original bid and 100 fewer than its most recent proposal.
In the meantime, Connelly was appointed to a $74,000 side job at the state Commission of Motor Vehicles, the kind of position typically filled by the party of the governor, in this case Republican Chris Christie. Connelly had been seeking such a job for more than two years.
In the tense atmosphere of the town, the July timing made some residents suspect the appointment was an effort by Christie — then Trump’s campaign adviser — to win Connelly’s support for the Kushners’ project.
Connelly, Kushner Cos. and Christie’s office all said such conjectures were completely false.
By August, the mayor was championing a new proposal allowing up to 700 apartments, and scheduled a council vote.
Monmouth Mall’s fate was decided on a sweltering September evening. Although the mall had never been zoned for housing, the planning board had ruled three weeks before that a new ordinance allowing apartments there nonetheless fit Eatontown’s master plan. Kushner Cos. agreed to provide at least 88 affordable housing units.
Now the borough council needed to vote.
The original April meeting was held in a large school auditorium with a standing room-only crowd. This time, a smaller council room was chosen. More than 100 people showed up to voice their opinions, with the overflow sent to watch the meeting remotely in a firehouse.
“I’m begging everybody up here to vote yes,” Connelly pleaded with his colleagues inside council chambers, according to transcripts. “This wasn’t done by Kushner.”
“According to you, not according to us!” one resident shouted. “You’re not king!”
“I’m not king, but I was elected mayor,” Connelly responded. “Anyway, I’ll call the vote now.”
The measure passed 5-1.
Two months later, two council members who approved the expansion lost their seats to candidates who campaigned against the mall.
One of the victors, Al Baginsky, said Connelly was wrong to keep the Kushner talks private and called the Kushner walk-out at the April meeting “theatrics” to make the 700-apartment offer seem like a concession.
With the town divided, four residents — three Democrats and one Republican — filed suit against Eatontown weeks before the presidential election seeking to void the council vote, claiming that borough officials’ decision to meet in a smaller room was “practically designed” to limit debate. The suit accused officials of violating the public meetings act, along with breaking with procedure and land-use law by giving special zoning favors to a single developer, an illegal act called “spot zoning.”
“If it were called the ‘Monmouth Mall Zone’ or the ‘Kushner-Can-Do-Whatever-He-Wants-in-His-Private-Zone Zone,’ there would be no difficulty in recognizing the spot-zoning for what it is,” the plaintiffs’ trial brief reads.
Kushner Cos. signed onto the suit in December, taking the town’s side.
In May, the company announced a new partnership with New York-based Rouse Properties to add landscaping and a culinary marketplace to the mall, which they said would transform it into a job-creating “state-of-the-art mixed-use destination.”
“Most of the mixed-use opponents attacked the residential element, with some spreading fake news,” Kushner Cos.’ attorneys said in its own trial brief.
“Malls across the country are dying,” town attorneys said in their brief, adding that the plaintiffs were trying to “inject the national political sentiment of 2017” into the suit by making it about Kushner.
Federal financial disclosure forms show Kushner still owned the mall in March, but a White House spokesman said Friday that he cut ties to the project in May. The spokesman said the related disclosure filings were not yet public, and provided no documentation.
Connelly said his support for the project had nothing to do with politics.
“I don’t care if it was the Kushners or the Clintons,” he said. “If they are coming in to put $300 million into our town to revitalize a property that is the biggest taxpayer, why would we say no to that?”


Low-income residents losing homes as New Orleans rents soar

Low-income residents losing homes as New Orleans rents soar

NEW ORLEANS/June 29, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — Lower-income renters in New Orleans are facing the loss of their homes and uncertain futures as affordable-housing subsidies start to expire in a city that already has experienced steep rent increases and stagnant wage growth.

Michael Esnault, a 69-year-old disabled veteran, says he searched for about three months before finding a new place after the management at his former complex, American Can Apartments, told him his rent would double to $1,400. He was one of dozens at the complex affected by the loss of the subsidies.

“We looked at a place not too far from here, a two-bedroom shotgun,” he said, referring to a long, narrow home found in many New Orleans neighborhoods. “They were asking $1,900 a month. I can’t afford that. I know many more who can’t, either.”

Carolyn Horton, 74, said she has yet to find a new place and plans to temporarily move into her grandson’s home in New Orleans. She said she’ll probably end up moving in with her son and his family in Denver.

“Getting old ain’t fun,” Horton said. “I’m an independent girl, still kind of healthy, but no one wants to hire someone my age. Everywhere I’ve looked has just been awful. My rent was $810, but they want to raise it to $1,100 or $1,200. Now I have to income-qualify for a new place and with just under $700 in Social Security, that’s not easy.”

For several weeks, she said, she’s been packing up her 600-square-foot (55-square-meter) home of three years in order to be out by Saturday and get the larger of the buyout incentives negotiated with the apartment complex when the subsidies expire.

“I could live in an efficiency, but I haven’t been able to find anything. It’s just not good how they treat you. You pay your rent, cause no trouble. They should just let us stay.”

Housing advocates say Horton’s and Esnault’s plight is indicative of a wider problem facing tenants across the city.

“American Can is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Breonne Deducker, a program manager for Jane’s Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative, a nonprofit that works to increase affordable housing options for low- and moderate-income residents.

Cashauna Hill, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, described the situation as a “very-large-scale problem” that will affect the city for years.

A former can manufacturing plant was transformed into the American Can Apartments in 2000 with the help of $39 million in public resources, including bonds and grants. In return, developer HRI Properties had to keep at least 20 percent of the 268 units at affordable rates when the property opened a year later.

In 2013, HRI Properties sold the complex to Georgia-based Audubon Communities Management. Attorneys for the complex didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The lower rents expired in March, but the complex is allowing those affected to stay until the end of October at the reduced rates, said Hannah Adams, an attorney with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services who worked with Esnault.

The length of subsidies in New Orleans varies from development to development, ranging from as little as five years to 15 years or more, said Ellen Lee, director of housing policy and community development for Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration.

Affordable-housing subsidies for about 1,200 units will expire in 2021 with another estimated 5,000 scheduled to expire 10 years later, she said.

Since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, rents in New Orleans have increased by about 50 percent, while wages have only risen by about 2 percent, Hill said. Three out of five renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, she said.

Orleans Parish residents must earn at least $18.54 an hour to afford a two-bedroom home as of this year, according to a 2017 report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s out of reach for many in a city driven by the hospitality industry. In the New Orleans area, more than three-quarters of all hotel jobs have median hourly earnings of less than $15, including tips, said Allison Plyer, chief demographer for The Data Center in New Orleans, which compiles such statistics.

“We know the city is in dire need of at least 33,000 affordable units just to deal with the current market conditions,” Deducker said.

Short-term rental programs, such as Airbnb.com and HomeAway.com, also have become increasingly popular in tourism-heavy New Orleans, and have pulled rental units off the market, Deducker said. Short-term housing in some neighborhoods is commanding up to $300 a night.

“They make more money doing that than renting to an actual resident of New Orleans,” she said.

Lee said city officials are trying to find ways to extend affordable rents while addressing the longer-term issue of affordable housing.

“We know this is a significant challenge for us,” she said.

By CHEVEL JOHNSON ,  Associated Press

NYC rent board votes to hike rents

NYC rent board votes to hike rents

NEW YORK/June 28, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — The New York City Rent Guideline Board has voted to hike rents by 1.25 percent on one-year leases and 2 percent on two-year leases.

The Board voted 7-2 Tuesday night. The increases will affect more than one million New Yorkers living in rent-stabilized apartments.

At a preliminary vote in April the Board had recommended three percent and four percent increases on one and two year leases. Rents had been frozen for one-year leases for the previous two years

The new rents will take effect in October.

NYC landlord pleads guilty in illegal-eviction case

Mortgage lender PHH agrees to pay $74 million settlement

NEW YORK/June 21, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — A New York City landlord has admitted to driving out tenants in a rent regulated apartment building.

State Attorney Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday that Daniel Melamed and the corporation he controlled pleaded guilty to three counts of unlawful eviction of rent stabilized tenants.

The Democratic attorney general said Melamed turned off heat and used demolition to try to get rent-regulated tenants to leave a Brooklyn apartment building.

Melamed’s 2015 arrest was the first resulting from the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force, a collaboration between state and city agencies.

An attorney for Melamed had earlier described the unlawful-eviction case as “political grandstanding.”

Vermont gets $3m in federal funds for affordable housing

Vermont gets $3m in federal funds for affordable housing

BURLINGTON, Vt./June 18, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — More than 140 apartments in seven developments across Vermont are going to benefit from $3 million from the National Housing Trust.
Independent U.S. Sen Bernie Sanders says the money will be used to build, preserve, and rehabilitate affordable rental housing
Vermont also received $3 million last year to help provide housing for extremely low-income families.
Gus Seelig, of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, says The National Housing Trust Fund focuses on the most at risk and lowest income citizens who have the most difficulty finding homes they can afford.
Seelig says the first year’s allocation will support apartments in Burlington, Brattleboro, Randolph, Rutland, Poultney, and Marshfield.

Higher prices squeezing both renters and would-be homeowners

Higher prices squeezing both renters and would-be homeowners

June 16, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) –A diminished supply of available homes is swelling prices in large U.S. metro areas from New York to Miami to Los Angeles, squeezing out would-be buyers and pushing up rents as more people are forced to remain tenants.

The trend is pressuring Americans’ budgets, with about one-third of households spending more than 30 percent of their gross income on housing as of 2015, according to a report being released Friday by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Homeownership rates have stagnated in part because high rents have made it difficult for many prospective buyers to amass a down payment for a house.

At the same time, the sparse supply of available properties is benefiting existing homeowners, many of whose home values have recovered from the housing bust a decade ago.

The tight supply of homes and a shortage of affordable rental housing have improved little in recent years for a variety of reasons. Among the key factors is that construction has yet to regain the pace of homebuilding that predated the bust.

“As the economy continues to recover, as income picks up as household formations pick up, it’s not spurring a supply response,” said Chris Herbert, managing director of Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. “It’s a worsening of the situation that was evident last year.”

Here are some major findings documented in the report:



The government considers people who spend over 30 percent of their income on housing to be “cost-burdened.” Those who spend more than 50 percent are considered “severely” burdened.

About one-third of households — 38.9 million — were considered cost-burdened in 2015, down from 39.8 million a year earlier. This was the fifth straight annual decline.

Still, roughly 16 percent of households, or about 18.8 million, paid more than half their income on housing. The share of renters paying more than they can afford varies from city to city. In Miami, it’s 35.4 percent. In El Paso, Texas, it’s just 18.4 percent. Other cities where households were deemed to be cost-burdened include Daytona Beach, Florida; Riverside, California; and Honolulu.

Ryan Welch of Santa Monica, California, is among those feeling stuck between rising rents and home prices. Welch, 32, pays about $1,500 a month for a rent-controlled one-bedroom apartment he shares with his wife. That works out to about a quarter of their monthly income, an affordable portion.

Welch, who works in advertising sales, would like a bigger place with more amenities. But he’s reluctant to leave their apartment.

“I’m nervous to move to a place that’s not rent-controlled,” he said.

Saving to own a home, something he wants to do, has had to take a back seat to making payments on student loans and his car, among other expenses.

“I’d much rather buy, but I can’t come up with the down payment,” Welch said.



The availability of homes for sale has fallen short of demand. Last year, the typical new home for sale was on the market for just 3.3 months, according to the report — well below the average of 5.1 months dating to the 1980s.

All told, 1.65 million homes were on the market last year, the fewest in 16 years, the report said.

The supply is worse for lower-priced homes that would be affordable to typical first-time buyers. Builders have been constructing fewer homes for that segment of buyers.

Between 2004 and 2015, construction of single-family homes of less than 1,800 square feet fell to 136,000 from nearly 500,000, according to the report.

The trends helped boost national home prices 5.6 percent last year, above their housing boom peak. (Prices remained nearly 15 percent below their peak, when adjusted for inflation.)

“Builders are starting to turn more attention to the entry-level market,” Herbert said. “My guess is we’ll see some increase in our supply of smaller, more moderate-cost new housing on the single-family side.”



One striking finding in the Harvard report is the gap in home values that’s widened since 2000, well before the market hit its boom-era highs. When adjusted for inflation, prices in markets along the East and West coasts have vaulted more than 40 percent since 2000. By contrast, values in the Midwest and South have declined.

Among the markets where prices remain well below their housing-boom peaks: Las Vegas, Chicago, Detroit and Tampa, Florida. By contrast, home values have risen far above their previous highs in Denver, San Francisco and Austin, among other markets.

“If you go back to, say, 1970 and you look at the differences in house prices across market areas, they were not nearly as extreme as they are now,” Herbert said. “It’s a function of income inequality and how much the differences in income have grown.”

In addition, regulatory constraints and a shortage of available land limit construction in many areas.



Though apartment construction surged in the years after the housing bust, demand for rental housing has grown even more. The rental vacancy rate fell last year to 6.9 percent, a three-decade low, according to the Harvard report. That’s the seventh straight annual decline.

Much of the apartment construction in recent years has been made up of luxury developments catering to affluent renters rather than to households of modest means.

The number of rental units available for under $800 fell by 261,000 between 2005 and 2015, according to the report. By comparison, the number of units for $2,000 or more climbed by 1.5 million in the same period.



The nation’s homeownership rate has been falling since peaking around 69 percent in 2004. Last year, it hit 63.4 percent, just above the low set in 1965. But the rate appears to be stabilizing, according to the report.

“Even if it is no longer falling, it’s settling in at a rate that’s low by historic standards,” Herbert said.

The rate has grown notably worse for African-Americans, the report found. Homeownership among African-Americans is now at its lowest point since the 1960s and nearly 30 percentage points below the rate for whites, Herbert said.



Construction increased in 2016 for the seventh year in a row, adding 1.17 million houses and apartments. But that was still the lowest growth rate since 2011, the report noted.

Building of single-family homes has been rising faster, up 9.4 percent last year to 781,600 units. Even so, residential construction still trails the 1.4-1.5 million annual rate that prevailed in the 1980s and 1990s, the report notes.

“We’re still not yet at 1.2 million starts,” Herbert said. “Back in the day, it would have been a bad year during a recession, and we’re still trying to get back up there. We’re certainly not back to normal in terms of supply.”

By ALEX VEIGA ,  AP Business Writer 

Rhode Island knife factory to be transformed into housing

Rhode Island knife factory to be transformed into housing

PROVIDENCE, R.I./June 13, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — A derelict former Rhode Island knife factory is being transformed into loft apartments that officials say could help revitalize a Providence neighborhood.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo is scheduled to attend a Tuesday groundbreaking for the $22.5 million project to convert the former Imperial Knife Company building into a housing development. Fifty-four of the 60 units will be reserved for lower-income households.

Tax credits and government subsidies are helping to finance the redevelopment.

The large brick building in the city’s Olneyville neighborhood was constructed in 1923 as a wool production facility for the Rochambeau Worsted Company. It was later used to make knives from the 1950s until 1987. It’s been vacant for a decade.

Boston-based developer Trinity Financial has already begun construction. It’s expected to be completed by fall 2018.

Hundreds protest Moscow City Hall’s demolition plans

Hundreds protest Moscow City Hall's demolition plans

MOSCOW/June 6, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — Several hundred people are rallying outside the Russian parliament to protest a controversial plan to tear down Soviet-era low-rise apartment blocks.

The State Duma on Tuesday was hosting Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, who was briefing the lower chamber of the parliament on arguably Russia’s largest redevelopment project to pull down entire neighborhoods of Soviet-era buildings.

City Hall has insisted the buildings are too dilapidated and outdated. But many residents and activists see the plans as a ruse to make way for high rises in some of Moscow’s leafiest neighborhoods.

Several hundred people gathered for an impromptu protest outside the Duma on Tuesday afternoon, demanding anti-demolition councilmen to be allowed in for the hearing. Some protesters marched down Moscow’s main street chanting “Sobyanin, resign!” No arrests were immediately reported.