Low-income tenants face uncertain future

Owner may redevelop property

At 86 years old, Fern Hayes doesn’t want a new home.

“You get so old that you just hate to move,” Hayes said.

But Hayes and dozens of other elderly or disabled residents of Clinton Place Apartments, 2125 Clinton Parkway, soon may not have a choice.

The 58-unit apartment complex is in a state of flux. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has started foreclosure proceedings on the property, but its owner is saying he may choose to redevelop the prime piece of real estate into something other than subsidized housing.

City commissioners may be asked to jump into the fray by providing several hundred thousand dollars to help the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority take over operations of the complex.

“Purchasing the property to preserve it as affordable housing would be part of our mission,” said Barbara Huppee, executive director of the housing authority.

Whether the housing authority will get the chance to buy the property, though, is an open question.

Fern Hayes, 86, sits with her granddaughter's cat Cali by her first-floor apartment window at Clinton Place Apartments, 2125 Clinton Parkway. The apartment building, a low-income housing complex for the elderly and disabled, is being foreclosed, and its residents fear being forced to leave. Hayes has lived in her apartment since 1999 and doesn't want to move again. I

Jim Pohrer, who leads the Leawood investment group that owns the property, said he still had the option to pay off the approximately $1.2 million mortgage on the property, which would stop the foreclosure and allow him to sell or redevelop the property.

He said he would be interested in working with the housing authority but also would have to explore options with the private sector.

“It is a great location. That’s the key right there,” Pohrer said of the site, which is just west of the busy intersection of 23rd and Iowa streets.

The apartment complex isn’t in great shape. Built in 1981, it needs about $600,000 worth of repairs, Huppee estimated – including new siding, carpet, paint and countertops.

Pohrer said needed repairs had begun to accumulate at the property, in large part because he has been prohibited by federal officials from raising rents to create an adequate repair fund.

The owner of Clinton Place Apartments, 2125 Clinton Parkway, says he may redevelop the property because of its prime location. The apartments for low-income residents are just west of 23rd and Iowa streets, south of Clinton Parkway.

But the complex, which was backed by federally guaranteed loans, was designed to provide affordable housing. Residents there pay only 30 percent of their adjusted gross income for rent, Huppee said, with the landlord also receiving subsidies from HUD.

Huppee said if the property is redeveloped, the residents would still be part of the subsidized housing program. They would receive vouchers to move into other privately owned apartments in the community.

“All the tenants would still get a subsidy that they could use,” Huppee said.

If the foreclosure process continues and the property is sold at auction, the new buyer – even if it isn’t the city – would have to operate the property as part of the HUD program unless it receives an exemption from HUD.

Huppee said the housing authority could purchase the property without help from the City Commission if the price of the deal stayed below $1 million. But Huppee said that was unlikely.

She said it was too early to estimate how much money the city could be asked to contribute to a deal, but it could be more than $500,000. She plans on updating commissioners on the project at their 6:35 p.m. meeting Tuesday.

But she said it likely would be at least another month before she knew whether the city would have an opportunity to buy the property.

More about Clinton Place Apartments

Hayes, who has lived at the complex since 1999, said she was rooting for the city.

“I would sure like to see them take it over,” Hayes said. “I think they could really get it straightened out.”