The 96-unit subsidized housing complex has a prospective buyer who needs transfer of an existing "payment in lieu of taxes" agreement in order to proceed and has offered to increase the amount from 6.28 percent to 10 percent of the rent proceeds. The buyer, Liberty Village Estates Urban Renewal LLC, also proposed electrical and plumbing upgrades, a new community room, a communal laundry and other improvements.
Unless the company can get approvals needed for a HUD contract by May 1, the subsidized housing complex could move to market rate rents, an attorney for the company said at the April 7 meeting where the PILOT resolution lacked consensus to be put on the April 15 agenda. Rivers dismissed the idea of time constraints and said action would be taken at the regular meeting, but numerous speakers last night challenged the proposal. Among them was former Councilman Malcolm Dunn, who served on the Housing Authority when the complex was developed. Dunn urged the council to seek concessions.
Resident Mustapha Muhammad also called for caution, characterizing the deal as "last-minute politics being thrown at you from this administration." Muhammad said it has been eight years since the community room has been used and said, "The owners need to be accountable."
Attorney William Eaton, representing the buyer, enumerated all the proposed improvements including the increased PILOT amount and explained that the current owners, Liberty Community Associates, face expiration of their Section 8 contract. He said he worked with the previous administration last year on the PILOT proposal and with the management to improve their performance score, but Rivers and others on the council insisted they did not have enough information.
Eaton said he would be happy to meet with them, but the principals were observing a religious holiday and would not be available until Thursday. He said the company owns 6,000 units of affordable housing and will obey a local ordinance that gives city residents first consideration for jobs at the complex.
However, nothing Eaton or the city's Economic Development director, Carlos Sanchez, said persuaded the council to take action Tuesday.
"This is like a rush, rush, rush," Rivers said. "We have two meetings in May," she added, alluding to what she said was a May 31 expiration of the Liberty Village rent vouchers.
According to a special report of the National Housing Trust on Expiring Section 8 Contracts, the Liberty Community Associates contract expires on May 6.
Liberty Village Estates Urban Renewal LLC sought the PILOT approval in order to effectuate a May 1 transition. The vote to move the resolution to the agenda Tuesday required five affirmative votes, but only Rebecca Williams, Cory Storch and Tracey Brown voted "yes," with Rivers, Vera Greaves, William Reid and Gloria Taylor voting "no."