Ypsilanti City Council approves housing commission purchase of Parkview Apartments
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
The long process of rehabilitating Parkview Apartments took another significant step forward this week when the Ypsilanti City Council agreed to allow the Ypsilanti Housing Commission to purchase and operate the 144-unit housing project.
The vote also demonstrated the improved relationship between the two entities. When litigation over the property began, the council and housing commission's inability to work well together created one of the major stumbling blocks to moving forward.
“This here is a grand occasion for me,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Trudy Swanson-Winston, who lives near the project. “When I looked at it, I said ‘Hallelujah, at last!’”
The housing commission will take over the property from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for a nominal fee, per a settlement approved in May by U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts between the Parkview Tenants Association and HUD.
The settlement brings to a close six years of litigation between multiple parties over the fate of the Hamilton Street complex.
The YHC is a city commission consisting of board members appointed by the mayor and approved by City Council. All of its property transactions must have the council’s support. With the approval of Tuesday’s resolution, the YHC will next set up a non-profit board to function as Parkview’s owner.
YHC Executive Director Walter Norris said the non-profit board will be made up of a voting majority of housing commission board members and the mayor or the mayor’s designee. The YHC commissioners could also appoint others to the non-profit board.
The council approved a 12-point agreement with stipulations for the purchase and general rules on how the complex will be governed and maintained. Norris credited City Manager Ed Koryzno and City Planner Teresa Gillotti with drafting a simple but effective document, which he said was previously one of the sticking points between the YHC and council.
The YHC is working with Baltimore-based developer Chesapeake Community Advisors, which has pledged to invest up to $12 million to renovate the complex into a mixed low- and middle-income complex.
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Chesapeake will receive $2.7 million - approximately $40,000 per unit - in an immediate HUD Up-Front grant, along with a Federal Housing Authority matching loan to renovate 68 of the 144 units.
The Washtenaw County Office of Community Development is contributing an additional $300,000 grant. Chesapeake is seeking federal low-income housing tax credits and private investments to help renovate the second half.
Roughly 30 units are currently occupied at Parkview. Those residents, and those who lived in the complex after July 30, 2007, will be provided with the first Section 8 vouchers and given the choice to move back in. Norris said tenants will likely be asked to move out by the end of the July while the townhouses are renovated.
Chesapeake is aiming to have the first 68 apartments ready by fall 2011.
Per the settlement, HUD will pay $700,000 in back taxes, and the YHC will pay the taxes from 2005. In addition, HUD agreed to pay all outstanding utility bills and other costs associated with the property.
All the parties involved expressed their strong desire to ensure the property never again slips into its current state of disrepair.
Council Member Pete Murdock requested the non-profit board report to council quarterly instead of “at least semi-annually” as the agreement before council stated.
The current management company, which was brought in by HUD, will no longer manage the complex. Council will also have the option to review the future management company’s contract when it’s up for renewal, and Norris said the management company will be under close scrutiny from the non-profit and YHC boards.
Further, Chesapeake will make a recommendation on a reputable management company. The potential company must be certified by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
“There will be a number of measures in there that will trigger review of management,” Norris said. “We feel strongly that this type of system will provide a positive response to the question of ‘How do we avoid problems and have a decent place for residents to reside and raise their families?’”
Mayor Paul Schreiber served on the housing commission for 11 years before being elected mayor. He said he would appoint himself to the non-profit board - should he be re-elected - to help ensure Parkview doesn’t fall back into disrepair.
“There’s just been so much work that’s gone into this and now we finally got what we want, but we have to make sure that its going to be successful,” Schreiber said.
In addition, a provision in the agreement calls for the non-profit to establish guidelines for potential tenants. Prior to the complex emptying, it was known as a haven for drug dealers and criminals.
Schreiber and Norris both expressed their approval of Chesapeake, which has development experience in Michigan and specializes in affordable housing.
"I have every confidence that they can make this a successful development," Schreiber said.
Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. Reach the news desk at email@example.com or 734-623-2530.