TRAVERSE CITY — An apartment complex that offers low-income housing for seniors is up for sale in a community where affordable housing is already extremely scarce.
The Churchside Village Apartments at 6233 Center Road is going on the market, according to interviews and documents obtained by the Record-Eagle.
However, the proposed sale does not necessarily mean the approximately 30 seniors who live there will have to move any time soon, if at all. Churchside Property Manager Julie Scott Armijo said a buyer is currently not lined up and a contract with the Housing and Urban Development to subsidize rents at the property extends to 2015.
Armijo is also optimistic any proposed buyer will continue the apartment complex’s decades-long tradition of offering affordable housing to seniors. As a precaution, though, she’s let all the residents know the property is up for sale.
“Whatever the new owner does — because of the contractual obligations currently in place, they would have to go through HUD to break those contracts,” Armijo said.
The newspaper spoke with four different residents of the apartments this week. One declined comment — three others expressed concerns about the future of the property and their ability to live there, but they each asked their names not be printed.
The project is known as a Section 8/202 property, meaning Housing and Urban Development subsidizes the rents. HUD also holds the mortgage. Some seniors on limited incomes pay as little as $70 a month for rent due to the subsidies.
The property is affiliated with the First Congregational Church but is not owned by the church. Instead, church members run a pair of boards that oversee the property. The proposed sale has been discussed for years and is not related to a recent change in leadership at the church, Armijo said.
“I think they just felt that the Churchside Village was becoming more than what they could handle,” Armijo said. “We’ve needed more care, assistance, transportation, buses.”
A spokeswoman with the Department of Housing and Urban Development said the department will do what’s best for residents of the apartment complex even if it is sold and the new owner does not want to use the property for subsidized housing.
“Our first concern is that the individuals are taken care of who are living there,” said Laura Feldman, a spokeswoman for HUD in Chicago. “We would work with everyone involved
“The owner would be entitled to opt out of the Section 8 HAP contract when the contract expires in 2015 so long as a one year notice is given (to) HUD and the residents,” Feldman said. “Should this occur, HUD will provide the existing residents with tenant-based vouchers and work with the residents to secure other suitable housing in the area with their enhanced voucher.”
Affordable housing in Traverse City has become an increasingly pressing issue for seniors, low income and even middle-class families. Rents for a single-family home can approach $1,200 or more in Traverse City. The 2012 Grand Traverse County Housing Inventory and Strategy found nearly half of all rental households pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing. For households earning $20,000 or less, the percentage is nearly 80 percent.
While nearly 40 percent of owner-occupied households are considered low-income, only about a quarter of the county’s housing units are considered “affordable” for low-income households.
Connie Hintsala of the Alliance for Senior Housing said waiting lists for low income housing can be six months or longer.
“It’s only going to increase,” she said.