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TENANTS, ADVOCACY GROUP HONOR LANDLORD WHO GOES EXTRA MILE TO KEEP RENTS DOWN AND RENTERS' SPIRITS UP

Virgil Newkirk's philosophy is simple: If you give, more will be given in return.

The tenants in his apartment buidings and sleeping rooms agree wholeheartedly: They are blessed to have a landlord with such a generous outlook.Recently, Newkirk's tenants and a women's advocacy group, JEDI Women, honored him for offering quality, low-cost housing, said Annie Boone, JEDI housing coordinator. JEDI stands for Justice, Economic Dignity and Independence.

"He is one of the best landlords I have heard of," Boone said.

Newkirk's tenants say he supplies his rented apartments with toilet paper and other commonly consumed toiletries. Last year, he stood in front of the City Council and spoke out against landlords requiring prospective tenants to pay pricey application fees, Boone said.

"He isn't in it just for the green," she said. "He really cares. I mean, landlords just don't do that type of stuff."

Newkirk said he just likes to do things "the right way."

"What people don't realize is that most people do right," he said. "For the most part, you can do things in a liberal way and come out OK. I've been burned before, but no security deposit is going to stop that from happening. If people have the tendency to do that, then they will."

In two years, Newkirk has not raised the rent at any of his five apartment buildings.

"I don't think you have to take all you can get all of the time. I'm getting an excellent return on my money," he said. "I believe the working people have less and less to spend. That's why I haven't raised the rent. I don't think you always have to turn a profit."

The rent he charges, he says, is reasonable for what he paid for the buildings more than two years ago.

"It's proved a good deal and I haven't had to squeeze pennies out of every situation."

Newkirk says he wants to be more than just a landlord; he wants to be a friend to his tenants. He says that he likes some of his tenants well enough that he has loaned them money.

"That may sound weird, but I trust them," he said.

"With all of my tenants, I try to endear myself to them. They are a part of my success. A lot of landlords have a different attitude, but I really think that it is a partnership. They have made me what I am today."