Friday, December 04, 2015

25-Unit Federally Financed Building Offering Low-Income Senior Citizen Housing Faces Foreclosure, Leaving Elderly Residents Wondering Whether Post-Holiday Rent Gouge Looms w/ New Landlord

In Skowhegan, Maine, centralmaine.com reports:
  • For the last four years, Marjorie Whipple has called a small apartment in Springhouse Gardens on Silver Street her home. “We’re like family,” said Whipple, 77, of the residents in the low-income senior housing building. “We get together every day, whether it’s for coffee, to socialize or to play bingo twice a week.”

    She and other residents like the fact that the 25-apartment building is centrally located, close to stores and the hospital. They like living there.

    But lately many residents at Springhouse Gardens have been concerned about whether they’ll be able to stay at the building in the coming months. The apartment building, which is owned by Spring House Associates and managed by Portland-based Stanford Management, is for sale after a federal judge ruled to foreclose on the building in August.

    The foreclosure came after the U.S. government filed a complaint earlier this year alleging that Spring House was behind on property tax payments, had failed to maintain the building properly and was behind on loan payments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Rural Housing, according to court records filed in U.S. District Court. The loan, which the group entered into in 1984, helped fund the construction of the low-income senior living center in downtown Skowhegan.

    Spring House owes the U.S. government more than $1 million, according to the court records. There is also a lien on the building for $17,261 in overdue property taxes, according to the Somerset County Registry of Deeds.

    Residents said Tuesday that they received letters in the mail about two weeks ago, telling them the building was in foreclosure.

    The letter tells residents that they are eligible to be put on waiting lists for other housing financed by USDA’s Rural Development office. The U.S. government could buy the building and maintain it as low-income housing, but the letter also warns residents that if the Springhouse building is sold to another developer, there is no guarantee that low-income rent rates will stay the same.

    However, some residents could be eligible for vouchers from USDA to help them pay their rent, the letter states.

    A meeting also was held Tuesday in which representatives from the USDA and Stanford Management met with residents to discuss their options. The meeting was not open to the public and representatives from both groups were unavailable for comment afterward. According to the court records, Spring House owed the U.S. government $1.19 million in loan payments and late fees as of February, plus a daily interest rate of $320.

    A consent agreement issued Aug. 31 stated that Spring House had 90 days to settle the debt or the property would be put up for sale.

    Cathy Barton, a senior property manager for Stanford, would not comment on what options residents have and would not say whether residents in other buildings Stanford manages in Skowhegan should have cause for concern. The company manages three other properties in Skowhegan and numerous others in Maine and Pennsylvania.

    Cathy Witham, an area specialist for Rural Development also present at the meeting, did not return a call for comment Tuesday. Other representatives from Rural Development also did not return calls for comment.

    David Johnson, an attorney for Spring House, also did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

    “Everybody was devastated by this,” said Whipple, who pays $385 in rent each month. “It’s hard right before the holidays not knowing what’s going to happen.”

    She said residents are worried that they either will have to find new places to live or will see an increase in their rent.

    “Will (a new owner) maintain the rent? They could say no, they don’t want to do it,” Whipple said. “We also don’t know if we’ll be able to get vouchers that will continue from year to year.”

    Whipple and other residents, such as Carol Dorian and Lorraine Hoskins, said they like the fact that Springhouse Gardens is downtown, within walking distance of a grocery store, Wal-Mart and other amenities.

    “You can just zip up to the store or down to the hospital,” said 90-year-old Frances Spaulding. “The hospital is right down the road, so it’s convenient.”

    Spaulding has a monthly income that comes from Social Security and pension payments to her late husband. She said that if there is a rent increase, she thinks she would be able to pay it, but she wasn’t sure about other residents.

    “I probably could stay here, but a lot of people couldn’t, because they only get Social Security,” she said.

    Whipple is one of them. Aside from Social Security, she gets about $50 per month in food stamps, she said.

    “I don’t want to move. I’d really like to stay here,” she said. “This is my home.”
Source: As Skowhegan apartment building faces foreclosure, residents wonder where they’ll go (The owner of Springhouse Gardens, a Silver Street building for low-income seniors, owes more than $1 million to the U.S. government and thousands in taxes and is for sale).

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