Cincinnati will ante up $50,000 to help relocate more than 500 tenants who are being forced to move from a large Bond Hill apartment complex due to problems with mold among other major health hazards.
City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to take the money from an emergency fund set aside for relocation, building inspection and other housing issues.
Combined with money contributed by the Federal National Mortgage Association and Michigan-based Habitat America, which is temporarily managing the nearly 1,200-unit Huntington Meadows complex, total funds available to tenants is about $300,000.
Based on a court order, tenants have been told to find new housing by Sept. 3.
Although Habitat has agreed to waive August rent for tenants who agree to leave and also to return security deposits to help the transition, some tenants said the deposits wouldn’t be returned until after they vacate and hand in keys, and the apartments have been inspected.
“What is the big hurry?” asked tenant Ricky Franklin, noting the problems were known for months before Habitat persuaded a judge to order residents to leave.
Last week, attorneys for the tenants reached a compromise with Habitat. Under the deal, tenants who move by Sept. 3 will receive $500, as well as have their security deposits returned.
Tenants who agree to the deal, though, must waive any health claims against Habitat.
Habitat had asked a judge earlier last month to evict the tenants by Aug. 31 after a study revealed possible health hazards due to mold, raw sewage and other contaminants.
The company said it would cost $10.5 million to correct problems at the complex.
Many tenants, however, said the consultant hired by Habitat overstated the problems. They noted the city’s health department found only more minor violations at the complex, and believe Habitat wants the site demolished to build more lucrative single-family housing there.
“The health department did not ask for the evacuation of a single apartment,” said resident Brian Garry.
Habitat officials couldn’t be reached for comment, but City Council members said they were led to believe that most tenants wanted to leave.
In recent years, Hamilton County issued $17.5 million in bonds to renovate the Bond Hill complex and the city of Cincinnati invested another $4 million.
Despite the $21 million total investment, the complex is in shambles and some city and county officials are pressing for an audit of its original owners, the Huntington Meadows Limited Partnership.
“There were mistakes made along the way that we want to learn from,” said Peg Moertl, the city’s community development director.
Meanwhile, Vice Mayor Alicia Reece has scheduled a forum with area landlords to help Huntington tenants find new homes. The session will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Swifton Commons in Bond Hill.