There is renewed hope tonight for the people who live at the rundown Tulane and Warren apartments in Memphis.
Friday the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it was cutting ties with the owners Global Ministries Foundation.
Now the foundation will be required to relocate residents to clean, safe and affordable housing.
Congressman Steve Cohen released a statement.
“I have been very disturbed by the substandard conditions many Memphians have been living in at Warren and Tulane Apartments, and I am pleased HUD is taking a firm stance on this,” stated Cohen.
Tenants we spoke with said the news makes them feel like they won, and their fight truly made a difference.
“I am ecstatic like I could do cartwheels I’ve been on the street seriously,” said Jessica Peterson, a Warren Apartments tenant and co-founder of the Warren Tenant Association.
For several months Peterson, her husband Miguel and neighbor Cynthia Crawford were determined to put the pressure on Global Ministries Foundation to take tenant complaints seriously at Warren Apartments.
They were excited to hear they have a chance to get out.
“Just a huge relief because when we first started it seemed very much like a David and Goliath tight battle,” said Crawford, co-founder of the Warren Tenants Association.
However, they said they are wary of what’s next.
“How does that work between GMF and HUD? Who should we really be hearing from and dealing with regards to this? Because I wouldn’t want to go to another GMF property,” asked Miguel Peterson.
In a letter to the president of Global Ministries Richard Hamlet, HUD said the owner failed to correct at least half a dozen health and safety violations after 2 inspections.
It also said the owner turned in false certification the violations were fixed. HUD said a false certification is a serious violation of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract and indicates overall lack of ability of an owner to move forward as a HUD partner. It may also have other consequence.
The letter also stated HUD’s findings during its site visits. During a visit on January 25 and 26, 2016 HUD staff said they found deficiencies including but not limited to infestation, blocked or unusable emergency exits, hazards such as broken glass throughout the grounds, missing or inoperable smoke detectors, inoperable windows, damaged or broken cabinets and damaged walls with holes or poor patches. HUD staff also stated they heard and saw evidence crime and lack of control by the owner.
Global Ministries released a statement saying over several months they spent more than $300,000 on repairs. They also stated, after working with HUD for several months unfortunately HUD officials made the decision to relocate residents of Warren and Tulane Apartments.
The foundation stated in the month of February, each family will receive a voucher to move to another subsidy housing complex that best suites their needs.
“It truly is a wonderful opportunity to start over and give her children better life chances and choices that we weren’t able to provide here in this community,” said Jessica Peterson.
Despite HUD cutting ties with GMF, the foundation stated it will seek opportunities to find a new owner for the Warren and Tulane Apartments to rehabilitate the properties.
GMF President Richard Hamlet stated, “It is our hope to find partners to restore these communities by providing these areas and families with exceptional housing to meet their needs.”
According to HUD’s letter, GMF cannot accept new Section 8 tenants at the properties and they cannot increase tenants’ share of their rent during their lease term, or pending the relocation process.