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Community Activists Fear Landlord is Taking Advantage of Hispanics

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SILER CITY — A Siler City landlord says he is offering his tenants a piece of the American dream. He is giving Hispanic immigrants a chance to buy the houses in which they now live. But some community activists fear the asking price is too high.

Wanda Macedo pays $450 a month to squeeze her family of five into a small two-bedroom house.

"It needs a lot of repairs," she says. "The ceiling's falling in, in the kitchen. The light switch has shortages. There's no heat."

The Macedos earn minimum wage at the local poultry plant. They want to move, but they cannot afford to live anywhere else.

A realtor who works for the Macedos' landlord is offering to sell the house for $59,000 without making any repairs.

Community activists are going door-to-door in the Macedos' neighborhood, cautioning tenants not to jump at the offer.

The realtor is making a pitch to about 18 families on behalf of owner Eugene Craven. Many of them are recent immigrants. Many do not speak English, and advocates worry they might not understand what they are getting into.

One of the tenant's neighbors thinks the asking price is too high. A homeowner who lives among the rental houses told us that he paid $38,000 for his house a few years ago.

"If people are coming from different countries, the process may be different," says Ilana Dubester, a Hispanic liason in Chatham County. "We want to make sure they're aware of the different steps."

Realtor Mike Moody says his client is tired of being a landlord and wants to give his tenants the first choice of buying the houses. He is asking $42,000 to $68,000 per house -- a price that he says is adjusted for the repairs that are needed.

"Nothing's being done underhanded or crooked," he says.

Moody says renters are free to take the offer or leave it, but the houses are on the market. Families who do not decide to buy the homes may be forced to find another place to call home.

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Stephanie Hawco, Reporter
Joe Frieda, Photographer
Brian Shrader, Web Editor

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