Thursday, May 27, 2010
Dilapidated housing units to be rebuilt
By SUE WATSON
The Holly Springs Board of Aldermen, at the behest of Mayor Andre’ DeBerry, passed motions and resolutions that will put in motion the rehabilitation of apartments at Mississippi Industrial College Homes.
Only about half of the 100 apartments are habitable, DeBerry said, with the remaining in deplorable conditions. They are located on West Woodward Avenue just off Martin Luther King Drive.
The steps to correct this serious eyesore on the north side of Holly Springs began earlier this year as DeBerry was in contact with the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Jackson and Atlanta, Ga. He said HUD proposed to sell the apartments to the city for $1 on condition the city find a suitable partner that would find funding to rehabilitate the units.
The city will keep the units as affordable housing for its residents and after spending an approximate $40,000 to $50,000 (per unit) to restore and renovate the units, the development will not be recognizable, said Jason Spellings, vice president of Southeastern Operations for the Wishcamper Companies. He visited the board room to detail the kind of work his company does. After finding the funds and renovating the properties, his company will take over the operations of the apartments which will cater to a somewhat higher scale customer, he said.
His company’s management policies do not permit the criminal element to take refuge in properties it owns, he said.
Wishcamper is an HUD contracted company.
The company uses a variety of subsidy streams “to do these type deals,” Spellings said.
Wishcamper’s portfolio is close to 90 percent similar to the MI College Homes - properties that are acquired and rehabilitated, he said.
“We would like to take possession of the property and rehabilitate to preserve affordable housing stock in the city,” he said. “I would say the city is in danger of losing it, if not done.”
Spellings said the current management company, TESCO of Memphis, Tenn., has held the management for about 1.5 years but is “embarrassed by association with this property.”
Although only half the apartments are habitable, there continues to be a waiting list and demand for affordable – even very poor affordable – housing, Spellings said.
DeBerry added the property is an embarrassment to HUD as well.
“It is something we need to get off the books - dilapidated and deplorable,” he said. “HUD is ready and they want this process to move.”
Spellings said his company will develop “a different income level of tenants.”
“The next step is to do a full needs assessment and get a contractor (to estimate the cost),” Spellings said.
He said the roof will be changed to a pitched roof and the apartments will not be recognized as the same place when the work is done.
Besides rehabilitating the apartments themselves, Wishcamper makes investments in the lives of its tenants, Spellings said, by offering GED programs and summer programs for kids on site and by sometimes placing medical clinics on site.
Funds to do the rehabilitation may come from Mississippi Development Authority, the mayor said.
With discussion ended, the board approved a motion to accept the offer from HUD to purchase the property for $1, followed by a resolution to authorize the mayor to act on the city’s behalf to seek funding and to work with the developer to rehabilitate the housing units.
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