News Column

Developer seeks city loan to help renovate low-income housing

August 5, 2014

By Dean Mosiman, The Wisconsin State Journal



Aug. 05--A developer wants public assistance to buy, renovate and save housing for perhaps 100 families in a deterioating, low-cost apartment complex in the Vera Court neighborhood on the North Side.

Mirus Partners, Inc. of Middleton is asking the city for up to $1.3 million in loans and requesting $5.2 million in Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority tax credits to buy and do a major makeover of the 128-unit Woodland Terrace Apartments, 523 Northport Dr., spread over four two-story buildings.

The complex, owned by Northport Apartments, LLC, is described by city officials as deteriorating and poorly managed with "significant health and safety issues," and as currently in default of a loan insured by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and facing foreclosure.

Northport Apartments, LLC, of Glenview, Ill. could not be reached for comment. The LLC does not own the Northport apartments on the 1700 block of Northport Drive.

The city is interested in a sale, rehabilitation of buildings and keeping units affordable, Community Development Director Jim O'Keefe said. Besides facing foreclosure, the city is not allowing new federal Section 8 housing vouchers or renewals at the site when leases expire due to the poor condition of buildings, he said.

"To put 100 households out of housing and asking them to find alternatives in this tight market is a very difficult proposition," O'Keefe said.

The property has been getting significant attention from city Building Inspection with 597 housing cases, each identifying between one and 150 separate items, since Aug. 1, 2012, and interest from the area's Neighborhood Resource Team, officials said. About 30 of the units currently are deemed uninhabitable.

The number of inspection actions is "extraordinary," city Building Inspector George Hank said, adding that the problems center on roof leaks and related damage, heating, doors and windows. "These buildings have been in a slow decline for the last three years."

"It needs to be dealt with," said Ald. Anita Weier, 18th District. "It has to be. People shouldn't have to live in a place like that."

The current owners have tried to make repairs but not to the satisfaction of building inspectors or the city attorney's office, Weier said.

The complex has 32 one-bedroom, 64 two-bedroom and 32 three-bedroom units.

MPI officials could not be reached Monday afternoon, but the company's 10-page application for city assistance outlines its proposal, called Northridge Terrace.

If MPI makes the purchase, Oakbrook Corp. of Madison would assume property management, the application says. New branding and signage would be put in place while initial construction efforts would focus on roofs and uninhabitable units. The renovation would then proceed to currently occupied units with an outreach campaign to follow identify changes in ownership, improvements and management. Seven of the one-bedroom apartments would be converted to fully accessible units.

The complex would get an energy makeover, with high efficiency boilers, Energy Star appliances and air conditioners, new windows and exterior doors and more. The improvements are expected to lower the resident's monthly utility bills.

The housing would be available to those making up to 60 percent of the area median income.

Site specific safety issues would be addressed through physical improvements, appropriate tenant rules and active maintenance.

MPI believes most existing residents will qualify for the housing, and those who don't, or don't pass background and credit checks, would get help to find new housing.

To finance the project, MPI would use $8.7 million in bond financing, $5.2 million in WHEDA tax credits, up to $1.3 million in loans from the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund and federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant money, and $870,000 from other sources.

The city's piece of the proposal will be introduced to the City Council on Tuesday night, referred to committees, and decided at a later date.

The developer would like to begin the project in October.

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(c)2014 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)

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Source: Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI)


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