Saturday, July 08, 2017

Boot May Be Near For Hundreds Of Low Income Residents In 237-Unit Complex As New Landlord Announces Plans To Stop Accepting Section 8 Vouchers, Renovate Apartments, & Boost Rents

In Des Moines, Iowa, The Des Moines Register reports:
  • An East Village apartment complex that is home to hundreds of low-income residents, including immigrant and refugee families, is poised to change owners — a move that could eliminate its subsidized housing to capitalize on Des Moines' downtown boom.

    Housing advocates fear the impending sale of River Hills Apartments 1, a 237-unit complex that straddles East Fifth Street just south of Interstate 235, will put more pressure on a rental market that already has a severe shortage of low-income housing.

    More than 100 households at the apartment complex use federal housing subsidies, commonly known as Section 8 vouchers, to pay their rent.

    River Hills' tenants include a diverse mix of families from Southeast Asia, Africa and other regions, as well as native Iowans looking for an affordable place to live, advocates say.

    "There simply is not enough affordable housing for lower-income families in Des Moines,” said Carly Ross, director of U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in Des Moines.

    Des Moines-based BH Equities, one of the largest apartment owners nationwide, plans to buy River Hills from Darwin T. Lynner Co., another local apartment firm. Officials from BH Equities said the plan to close the deal in August but declined to disclose a purchase price.

    Ben Roby, an acquisition manager for BH Equities, said the company is still assessing its options but intends to eventually charge market-based rental rates and stop accepting vouchers.

    He said the transition will take two to three years and BH Equities does not plan to kick out renters and wants to work with tenants to find new housing if needed.

    But refugee and affordable housing advocates say the move could force out hundreds of low-income renters.

    “It’s very disappointing,” Ross said. “Des Moines is already facing a shortage of a housing that is accessible to refugees and immigrants and this is a very big loss for families who are trying to find safe and affordable housing in our community.”

    Residents of River Hills who use vouchers will be able to stay until at least 2018, when their subsidized leases expire, according to Des Moines housing services Director Jackie Lloyd.

    But at that point, the new owner could refuse vouchers and raise the rent.

    And advocates say finding new rentals won't be easy.
    BH Equities plans to make some exterior improvements and renovate apartment units one-by-one as they become vacant but does plan a large overhaul of the property.