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May 19, 2024 4:14 pm

by Greg Childress, NC Newsline
April 18, 2024

Citing concerns about the potential new owner, a tenants’ rights group in Winston-Salem is urging the city to sell eight affordable apartments to the tenants instead of private developers.

Housing Justice Now contends the developers have not honored conditions of the sale, which included a 30-day due diligence period, individual meetings with residents, and help with completing applications for Section 8 housing vouchers.

The city council agreed Jan. 8 to sell the apartments to Jared Rogers and Ruskin Anderson for $600,000 on the condition that the apartments remain affordable and that current rents remain frozen for two years.

“Typically, North Carolina due diligence periods span 3-4 weeks,” Housing Justice Now said in a press release. “However, nearly 100 days have gone by since the Council vote, and the City has failed to complete the sell [sic].”

Some tenants missed the chance to apply for Section 8 vouchers after the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem opened its waiting list April 2-4 because the developers never notified tenants, the tenants’ right group said.

“Several residents said they were unaware this took place and received no help applying, thus locking them out of the Section 8 program indefinitely,” Housing Justice Now said in its statement.

In an interview with NC Newsline, Rogers denied Housing Justice Now’s claims. He said he has met with tenants who made themselves available and did notify eligible tenants when the housing authority opened its Section 8 waitlist. Two of the eight tenants already receive Section 8 vouchers, and one does not qualify. Jared Rogers (Courtesy photo)

Rogers said the delay in completing the sale is due to continued negotiations around deed restrictions that are designed to keep the units affordable.

“We’ve had to go back and forth several times with the city to say this doesn’t work, this wouldn’t work for anybody,” Rogers said. “This is only applicable in a situation where there is a property-level subsidy [such as Section 8 vouchers]. There is no property-level subsidy, therefore this can’t be there.”

Buyers of city-owned residential properties must agree to honor the city’s affordable housing ordinance and its Housing Justice Act, which were created to keep such properties affordable, reduce homelessness and prevent housing discrimination based on criminal convictions and source of incomes.

At the heart of the purchase delay, Rogers said, is a contract provision requiring developers to charge each tenant monthly rents based on ability to pay.

“It would basically say to me as a landlord, I need to go to each tenant every single month and underwrite them every single month,” Rogers said. “If something happened in their life, job or career, that [rent] might go down to zero, like say they lost their job or decided to become a student.”

Without rent subsidies in place, Rogers said he could miss loan payments.

“There’s not a bank in this world that would give me a loan if every 30 days I potentially have zero cash flow,” Rogers said. Gerick Walker (Courtesy photo)

Gerick Walker and the property’s other seven tenants have launched a nonprofit — The Housing Spring Company — with the hope to buy the two buildings. They are working to secure a loan for the purchase, Walker said.

He said the nonprofit has invited Rogers to its board of director’s meeting on Saturday to ask him to support the group’s bid to purchase the apartments.

“We are demanding as residents an opportunity to take care of ourselves,” Walker said. “We don’t want to be left in the hands of someone else who is not a part of our community and we’re hoping that he [Rogers] understands that and supports that on Saturday when we talk.”

Rogers told NC Newsline that he’s not opposed to the city giving another nonprofit a chance to purchase the property.

He said he’s told city council members that if another nonprofit comes forward to purchase the property, “then, by all means, let them have it.”

Rogers said recent news accounts about the property have portrayed him as a villain, which nearly caused him to walk away from the deal.

He said he only stepped up to buy the property to ensure that it remains affordable.

“Honestly, I can at least say I’m the reason why there are eight affordable housing units, and the juice ain’t worth he squeeze and all of the hassle,” Rogers said.

In Housing Justice Now’s news release, member Dan Rose urged the city to sell the property to tenants.

“These residents need a landlord like a fish needs a bicycle,” Rose said. “If they got a $600,000 mortgage over 30 years and split it among the eight units, their monthly repayments would be less than they’re paying in rent right now.”

Rose said tenants would have money left over for taxes, insurance, and maintenance and would control their own housing, continue to live close to downtown and create some generational wealth if the city allowed them to purchase the property.

Winston-Salem’s homeownership rate dipped from 71.1% in 2000 to 66.2% in a 2021 HUD report, Rose noted.

“Instead of shuffling around landlords, we need the city to start thinking creatively about how they could be creating asset-building opportunities for lower-income residents,” he said.

NC Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. NC Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Rob Schofield for questions: info@ncnewsline.com. Follow NC Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

This story is republished from NC Newsline under a Creative Commons license. Read the original story.