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Advocate says Wilmington’s affordable housing shortage at crisis point
WILMINGTON — In the weeks after Hurricane Florence drenched Southeastern North Carolina, Wilmington saw hundreds of its apartment homes closed by mold.
More than 2,000 Wilmingtonians were displaced as their complexes — The Glen, Market North, Cape Fear Hotel Apartments, Jervay — closed one by one. Some are starting to undergo repairs; at others, there are no signs of progress.
But at least one damaged apartment complex has started welcoming tenants back.
In late September, New Providence Park apartments, managed by Tribute Properties, in Wilmington’s Northchase neighborhood informed 120 households they would have to leave. Maria Pietroforte, Tribute’s president of property management, said the company plans to have 100 percent of the units ready to rent by summer.
“We have already placed many of the prior residents in other apartments at New Providence Park as they became available,” she wrote in an email. “We created a list of all the displaced residents, and as we narrow the timeframes for completion we will contact each of them to see who wishes to return to New Providence Park.”
Downtown, extensive work continues on the nine-story Cape Fear Hotel Apartments, which, until the storm, provided affordable housing for seniors.
A manager did not return a request for comment on when the building might reopen at the corner of Chestnut and North Second streets. A message on the complex’s website reads: “Due to hurricane damage we are temporarily not receiving applications for new residents.”
Waiting in hotels
Since September, 208 New Hanover County households have stayed at hotels at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) expense.
Many have moved to different housing, 85 families remain there, according to FEMA spokesman John Mills. But FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program, as its called, ends in the region on March 12.
“The deadline varies by individual household, and all of them had been notified of their deadline,” Mills said.
Annie Anthony of the Cape Fear Volunteer Center, which helped move people after the storm, said that in the case of several dozen households from the Jervay Community, that deadline is rapidly approaching.
In November, managers announced that 86 out of 100 apartments at the affordable housing complex — located off Dawson Street — had sustained storm damage and mold, and that the complex would close for repairs.
“Jervey, I think that they are making some progress,” Anthony said. “I had heard that some people had been back to sign leases to return there.”
Telesis Corp., the Washington, D.C.-based company that manages Jervay, was unable to respond to a request for comment by press time. Anthony said between Jervay and families displaced from other local apartment complexes, the Cape Fear Volunteer Center was preparing to help relocate nearly 100 families as their TSA runs out.
“That’s a lot of apartments to find in a town that doesn’t have any,” she said.
No word on Market North
The Foundation for Affordable Housing, the California nonprofit that owns Market North, did not respond to a request for comment this week.
On Wednesday, the complex on Darlington Avenue was still a sea of blue-tarped roofs, with no construction equipment or vehicles around. Anthony said that’s the way its been since her organization helped move 1,000 people out of the complex in October.
“We were told to tell them three to six months at the most, and I kept telling them, ‘Don’t count on it — plan on nine to 12,’ ” she said. “They will, I think, probably end up being the people that were lied to the most, because at this point I do not see any movement.”
The shuttered 500-unit Glen apartment complex, located across South College Road from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), also has not announced its next steps.
“At this time, Phillips Management Group is still evaluating options for the property and how to best move forward,” spokesman Monty Hagler worte in an email. “No decisions have been made.”
New Hanover County property records show that neither Market North nor The Glen properties have been sold. Records place the estimated value of the land and buildings at The Glen at roughly $17 million, and Market North at more than $10 million.
Jody Wainio of the Cape Fear Housing Coalition said while city and county officials are looking at ways to build more affordable housing options, it’s hard to compete with private dollars.
“I think funding is a big challenge,” she said. “That’s why the big investors coming in and buying things is quite attractive to those owners, because waiting for (Department of Housing and Urban Development) money or FEMA money takes some time.”
Anthony said she is not optimistic about those complexes reopening, and worries the valuable land will be redeveloped. She described Wilmington’s affordable housing situation as a crisis.
“Someone needs to stop issuing building permits to people only willing to build expensive apartments,” and build apartments for nurses, firefighters and teachers, she said. “We can’t have them run out of our county because we’re pricing them out of living here.”
Reporter Cammie Bellamy can be reached at Cammie.Bellamy@StarNewsOnline.com.