Housing authority to renovate two apartment complexes

Published 12:46 pm Saturday, October 11, 2014

All of Franklin’s apartments classified as Section 9 Public Housing Units are being renovated and will no longer be Section 9, said Philip Page, executive director with Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

For current residents in the three complexes, Berkley Court, Pretlow Gardens and Oldtown Terrace, the change will not mean anything for the foreseeable future. That’s with the exception that they will have a renovated unit to live in with new flooring, kitchens and bathrooms. The siding and roof-tops will also be updated.

The rent will not be going up and those receiving Federal rent assistance will continue to.

In the future, however, as tenants move in and out and they open the waiting list back up, the application process will be a little different. Under Section 9, the government paid directly to the housing authority for tenants.

Under the new system, tenants will have to apply to receive money for government or other charitable organizations for rent assistance.

“This conversion will not change anything for current residents,” Page said. “The last thing we would have wanted to do was force people out of a home.”

Total renovations are going to cost around $8.5 million, Page said. $4.5 million for Berkley Court’s 75 units, and the remanding $4 million split between the 75 units at Pretlow Gardens and Oldtown Terrace. On top of the unit renovations, the community centers, connected to Berkley, Pretlow and Oldtown, will also be renovated.

For Berkley, the current Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority main office will be converted into a community center, as the authority’s new office at the old bank on the streets of Fourth and Main is set to be renovated and ready for occupancy in November. Work will begin on renovating the old FRHA office into a community center.

“The community centers are a huge benefit,” Page said. “We will be able to better and expand our educational and training programs for our residents and the youth.”

They are taking advantage of a Low Income Housing Tax Credits program offered by the Virginia Housing Development Development department. Every year, VHDA offers tax credits that can be sold to investors for money to redevelop housing. The Franklin housing authority worked with a syndicator to sell the credits, and the investors who purchased them remained anonymous.

Out of nine applications, VHDA granted four of them, and Franklin received two. Page said they made roughly $3.7 million for each application.

Two other grants were also received to help put this together. FRHA received two grants for each set of 75 units from the Virginia Housing and Community Development Corporation as well as a grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank.

Leaving Section 9 will also be of benefit to the housing authority, as it gives local management more control over, for example, renovations, as they are able to pursue grants.

Under Section 9, FRHA received about $100,000 each year that could go toward maintenance.

“In my professional opinion, it won’t make it tougher by leaving Section 9,” Page said. “A lot of people have varied, mostly negative feelings about Section 9. We are very happy to be able to leave public housing behind, while still being able to offer assistance to the families that need it.”

The renovations are currently being worked in phases. They started in August and the hope is to complete all five phases by March, weather depending. As they finish phase one around the beginning of November, Page said, some tenants will be moved back into their renovated apartments.

Pretlow and Oldtown were built in ‘83, while Berkley was in ‘72. The apartment complexes will no longer be public housing, but they will also not be regular apartments. They will be low-income housing options under VHDA’s Tax Credits program.