As a Westover tenant since 2004, I welcome APAH’s decision to purchase 8 of Westover’s remaining garden apartments with two caveats:
1) APAH CEO Nina Janopaul advised me that she tried unsuccessfully to purchase some of the recently flipped properties in 2014. She was blown off by the owner of the properties. I believe that APAH would be more effective were it operating as the acquisition agent for a housing authority with the clout to play hardball with landlords.
2) I am concerned that APAH may evict tenants earning over 60 percent of area median income (AMI).
It is ironic to me that some of the Westover tenants who prompted APAH’s intervention to save the properties may be thrown out as a result of its actions.
In fact one of the tenants in a property soon to be acquired by APAH did something about the demolition of Westover apartments. Through an FOIA request and several trips to Richmond on his own dime, he learned that the Westover owner responsible for the crisis had bankrolled some of the flipped properties through low interest, taxpayer funded VHDA loans that were pre-payed in 2009.
This public minded citizen’s reward for alerting the public to another taxpayer ripoff? The prospect of being evicted from his apartment unless he leaves voluntarily.
I understand from a Housing Commission meeting on September 15 that although APAH is required to provide low income housing to qualify for federal and state loans, County Board can provide it with leeway in renting these apartments, and I hope it does.
Whenever possible, APAH should offer existing tenants the right of first refusal regardless of income. Otherwise moderate income people will be recycled out of their homes. This is precisely what APAH set out to prevent by acquiring these properties in the first place.
Also allowing existing tenants to stay in their apartments would be more cost effective for the County, since insisting on tenants at or below 60% of AMI will require heavy governmental subsidies in the form of housing assistance.