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Housing authority can help eligible Town Plaza tenants

A regional housing authority manager says Town Plaza tenants could be eligible for special Section 8 vouchers because the city has “red-tagged” the property for conditions that could affect safety and health. The apartment manager says he thinks the property owner will try to work out a solution with city officials. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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The head of a regional housing authority based in Roswell can help qualifying Town Plaza Apartment tenants if they are displaced by condemnation proceedings.

The on-site manager, John Ray, meanwhile, said he does not think the situation will reach that point.

Chris Herbert, executive director of the Eastern Regional Housing Authority, said that he and city officials began talking Wednesday about how to meet the needs of the remaining tenants of the large apartment complex at West McGaffey Street and South Sunset Avenue. The city of Roswell posted notices Monday evening on all apartment doors indicating that the property will be condemned Jan. 17 if the owners and managers do not reach some agreement to solve problems that city officials said could affect the health and safety of residents.

Community Development Manager Bill Morris described the problems as water and sewer leaks, roof leaks, exposed electrical wiring, structural deterioration and evidence of non-tenants coming and going from some units. Some tenants said they had been making complaints for months, including about a lack of hot water and heat, and city documents indicate that the city has been responding to safety and health conditions regarding the property since at least 2015.

Herbert said that low-income tenants in need of new housing can qualify for special Section 8 vouchers in these circumstances. The federal vouchers will reduce rent, with the amount of rent reduction available dependent on income.

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“I started looking for ways that we might be able to help these individuals,” he said, “and I found out that, as part of our administrative plan, we can help someone who is displaced. In this instance, we can help someone when there is some type of governmental action that caused the displacement, and code enforcement actions are specifically mentioned in the provisions.”

Herbert said that he knows of three units available now in Hagerman that are part of the housing authority’s inventory and thinks that there should be sufficient rental units available in the area for the remaining Town Plaza tenants.

Individuals or families can receive vouchers, as long as they meet income eligibility criteria and other requirements. He said that those interested in applying should visit the authority’s office at 106 E. Reed St.

Morris said that city staff still has not been able to talk with the owner. A city business license identifies the owner as Lawrence F. Edmisten III of California. He has not responded to messages sent to the email address on the license.

“If we can get the people out of the complex and into places that meet basic housing standards, I will feel much better about things,” said Morris.

Ray, the apartment manager, said he estimates that about 40 percent of the 72 units in the nine living structures are still occupied.

“I have had some people who have been here for two or three years and they do not want to leave,” he said.

He said that he felt the depiction of him and the owners as at fault for the majority of problems was unfair. He contended that they had done their best to respond to written requests for repairs and to notifications of problems. He said many of the problems were the fault of tenants who would not take proper care of their units by bleaching away mold, keeping animals from chewing carpets, or ensuring no food was left lying around to attract insects. He also said some tenants violated the terms of their leases, did not pay rent or did not want inspections of their units.

He said he could not provide a phone number to contact the owner, but added that they had talked Wednesday and he expects that the owner will make arrangements with the city to forestall further action.

“I personally do not think it will be condemned,” he said. “The owner does not want to lose the property.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.