While a few dozen families have less than a week to vacate the Rainbow Motel after receiving a certified letter that the property had been sold, their plight is showing an overall affordable housing dilemma in Gatlinburg and the surrounding area. 

“There is nowhere for the local people to live to run this tourist destination,” said Rainbow Motel tenant Penny England. “I don’t know what this will amount to then.”

Renters at the Rainbow Motel were stunned by a certified letter telling them the property had sold, demolition begins one week from Thursday, and they had to vacate the premises by Jan. 10. Many told WATE 6 On Your Side that they had nowhere to go. 

     MORE | Renters at Rainbow Hotel told they have until Jan. 10 to get out

“In this town, you cannot find a place in that amount of time, it’s just not ample time.”

Affordable housing in Sevier County has become a dilemma for many despite the tourist attractions. 

In less than a week, Rainbow Motel tenant Debbie Armstrong won’t be walking her dogs Rocket and Daisy, she’ll be packing up boxes and moving out on the 10th. She’s one of the lucky ones – she actually found a place to go. 

But, she’s worried for her neighbors who haven’t been so lucky.

“There’s some good people here – good hearted, down on their luck, working, struggling, trying to get on their feet and this is a big blow for them,” Armstrong said. 

Neighbors that Armstrong worries over include Bobby Bouwell, who hasn’t found a place to go just yet. 

“The way it looks now, even if I were to make another 100 or 200 dollars this week, there’s nothing for rent in Gatlinburg. I don’t know what you’re going to do with the people that run your town,” Bouwell said. 

Sevier County Economic Development director Allen Newton offered his insight. 

“It’s actually the rising costs of property and the rising cost of construction, available labor, all kinds of things are driving costs and have contributed the issues we’re having here in Sevier County with our housing,” Newton said. 

Affordable apartments are on the way, but construction and development of projects like that can take up to 18 months. 

Newton saying more than 1,500 apartments in Sevier County are being developed, with 76 in Gatlinburg alone. Those apartments are coming due to city incentives and they’re in the planning stages. 

“You want to be able to try and find those folks somewhere to live because we need them as employees and I’m sure they’re great employees,” Newton said. 

While that may be good news for the future, it isn’t enough to set Armstrong’s mind at east today. 

“Unless the projects can be ready by the 10th for people to move into, it’s not helping these people ,” she said.