Out-of-state developers likely to buy low-income apartment complexes

Posted at 7:12 PM, Feb 21, 2018

CINCINNATI -- Mark Mays is getting the hole in his roof fixed. It only took six months. 

"They're getting a lot better than when I first moved here," he said. 

Mays lives in low-income housing on Burton Avenue. The six-month wait time is an improvement. Two years ago, one of his neighbors told WCPO how it took years to get the landlord to fix problems. 

Now, that building is among seven low-income housing complexes that may be getting new owners. The properties were put on the market as the result of a lawsuit filed by the city. But the two developers vying to buy the apartment buildings are based hundreds of miles away, which has some people wondering how they would be able to manage the properties from so far away. 

MORE: Residents worry as seven low-income housing complexes in Cincinnati to be sold

Some residents are worried conditions in the complexes could return to the way they were, with a property manager in New Jersey and the closest U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development office in Chicago. 

"They would not respond to nobody -- a letter, a phone call, nothing," Burton resident Michael Pinkston said. 

Pinkson started the Burton Association, a group of residents who advocate for better living conditions. He formed the group after the roof fell in at the apartment complex two years ago

"Far too many residents had to live around here with mold," he said. "You know, no windows working, no electricity working. Pipes and things like that in the building were in bad condition. People had to suffer with turning off the water for days and days."

Conditions were so bad that the city sued the owner in 2015. That led to the buildings' upcoming sale, as well as $8 million in improvements. 

RELATED: Cincinnati's public housing at a crossroads

The two potential buyers are New York-based Related Affordable, LLC and Michigan-based American Community Developers, Inc. The managing agent working on the sale wrote in a letter to city officials that both companies "have excellent reputations as developers of affordable housing properties."

But with the two proposed buyers out of state, some city councilmembers have raised concerns. 

"We are focused like a laser to make sure that we don't return back to the issues that we had before," Councilmember Jeff Pastor said. 

Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman said he wants the contract to become a model so that history doesn't repeat. 

"I’m hoping ... that we can use this really as a framework, you know, of how we cannot allow other properties to get into this condition," he said. 

As for the residents, they're hoping conditions will keep getting better. 

"The only thing that we are looking forward to in here is at least getting a landlord who really care," Pinkston said. 

The sale is still being negotiated. Officials expect another update in May.