Cincinnati, OH – A company managing a large Bond Hill apartment complex that wanted to evict hundreds of low-income tenants and close the facility has agreed to offer them relocation aid.
Shortly before a hearing Friday afternoon in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, attorneys for the tenants reached a compromise with the company managing the Huntington Meadows complex.
Under the deal, tenants who move by Sept. 3 will receive $500, as well as have their security deposits returned. Also, tenants who agree to move won’t have to pay August rent.
Michigan-based Habitat America, which is the court-appointed receiver temporarily managing the property after owners filed for bankruptcy, will pay the money.
Gary Pieples, the Legal Aid attorney for the tenants, said the settlement is fair because Habitat is receiving some tax credits for assuming temporary management of the site.
“This is not great, but at least it’s something for the tenants,” Pieples said. “The tenants needed time to move and they needed money to move.
“It’s a terrible situation,” he added. “I don’t think anyone is happy.” About 560 people live at the dilapidated apartment complex.
Earlier this month, Habitat asked a judge to evict the tenants by Aug. 31 after a study revealed possible health hazards due to mold, raw sewage and other contaminants. Habitat said it would cost $10.5 million to correct problems at the financially troubled complex.
Habitat likely will seek a court order to evict any tenants who want to remain, Pieples said. That would probably take at least until September.
“I don’t think any of us have any idea of how many people will opt to take the deal, but I suspect many of them will,” Pieples said. “As we’ve stated all along, though, we believe tenants have a right to stay on the property if they choose.”
Attorneys for Habitat did not return phone calls Friday.
The complex is attractive to many poor people because of low rents. A three-bedroom town home, for example, rents for $550 per month at Huntington, hundreds of dollars cheaper than at many other complexes.
Huntington Meadows is privately owned, but more than $20 million in federal funds and $4 million in city funds were used in the past few years for an unsuccessful attempt to renovate the site.
The complex’s previous owner, Huntington Meadows Limited Partnership, hasn’t made a mortgage payment since May 2001, and the mortgage holder has filed for foreclosure.
During the owner’s financial troubles in the past two years, many tenants said the complex has fallen into disrepair. They complained of roach and rat infestation, plumbing problems, leaking walls and roofs and sewage backups.
Also, tenants said drug dealing has become common at the complex. Habitat recently began hiring off-duty police to patrol the development, which tenants said has driven away the dealers.
With 1,169 units, Huntington Meadows – formerly known as Hillcrest Gardens – is one of the largest non-subsidized, low-income apartment complexes in Cincinnati.
Because of the ongoing problems, many tenants have left and only about 560 units are occupied.