2006-01-13 / Community

Roy Reuther Houses Sold; Current Residents Not In Jeopardy

By Miriam Rosenberg Contributing Editor

Roy Reuther Houses, which has been exclusively for seniors and the disabled since it was built in 1971, has been sold and the new owners plan to open availability of the apartments to everyone.

Under the terms of the HUD-assisted mortgage it received at the time it was being built, rental in the buildings were exclusive to seniors 62 or over and the disabled.

In March, Seagirt Houses Associates – who own the property – announced it would complete payment of the mortgage. New owners should take over the building the end of February. At that time, the apartments will become deregulated, and there will no longer be restrictions on who can become a tenant.

In addition, the apartments will be rented at market rate.

While the prospect of change has some residents of the complex concerned, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer says that current tenants will be secure in their apartments and will see no changes in their status concerning their rent.

“One thing is that none of the tenants are being pushed out,” said Pheffer. “Everybody’s rent is protected.”

Residents, who are in the building when it changes hands, will be able to apply for federal Enhanced Section 8 Vouchers, which is funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

These vouchers, known as ‘sticky vouchers’ because they can be taken with the holder anywhere in the country, will be issued directly to the tenant for payment of their rent.

“Preliminary calculations indicate that almost all households [in Roy Reuther] will qualify for Enhanced Section 8 Vouchers and their out of pocket rental expense will not increase,” wrote Charles Gendron, the owner’s representative, in an August letter to the tenants.

“The owners will be working with HUD to make sure all qualifying households receive Enhanced Vouchers.”

Residents who receive an Enhanced Voucher will pay either 30 percent of their adjusted income or their current rent – which ever is greater. The voucher will pay the rest.

A new Landlord Assistance Payment Program (LAP) being set up by the new owners will help tenants who do not qualify for the voucher or whose rent may go up even if they are on the program.

The program will require a $50 raise in rent each year until these tenants reach the contribution percentage necessary for the voucher program.

Pheffer told The Wave she has received a commitment from the new owners about senior services at Roy Reuther.

“I have received assurances that [the new owners] will maintain the senior programs and services available,” Pheffer said. “There are lots of services, not just the senior center.”

Other services in buildings (besides the senior center) are a supermarket, a beauty parlor, a doctor’s office and a pharmacy.

While the buildings will now be open to all tenants, Pheffer expects the owner will use a “very fine screening” process in determining who to rent to. When the building was subsidized, owners had to rent to anyone.

Now the owners can be more diligent in the screening process.

Pheffer said buildings throughout the city are opting out of the Mitchell- Lama system. Any Mitchell-Lama project can decide to buy out of the program after 20 years by paying their mortgage in full.

“We need more senior citizen housing,” she told The Wave. “Unfortunately, [Roy Reuther] is not [exclusively] for seniors anymore,” she told The Wave.

The new owners were not available to speak to The Wave for this story.

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