Planned Durham evictions may be delayed

jwise@newsobserver.comNovember 2, 2012 

— Lincoln Apartments tenants may have won a two-month reprieve, resident Bernadette Toomer said Friday.

According to Toomer, Lincoln Hospital Foundation Board Chairman Larry Suitt told residents that the foundation will keep the apartments open until January. The foundation owns the low-income apartment complex on Lakeland Street.

“We won! The tenants won!” Toomer said.

Suitt, though, was not available to confirm the decision and neighborhood organizer Sendolo Diaminah said residents have not received written confirmation.

The low-income apartment complex was to have been closed as of Wednesday. Ray West of Southern Real Estate, the apartments’ management firm, said they had heard nothing from the foundation to indicate a change in plans.

Residents and supporters had said closing Wednesday would have left at least 152 people homeless. The foundation has taken no action to remove those tenants still occupying units.

Toomer and Diaminah said Suitt told them of the postponement during a telephone conversation Thursday night. Diaminah said they were told that if tenants behind on their rent payments catch up and remain current they may continue to live at Lincoln for two more months.

Suitt told the News & Observer on Thursday that the foundation board was reassessing the situation after the Oct. 31 closing date passed with tenants still occupying some of the apartments.

“We’re just trying to update our information and trying to make good decisions,” he said.

The foundation has not started formal eviction processes.

The Lincoln Hospital Foundation had planned to close it because of “unfavorable financial conditions.”

Foundation tax returns for 2010 and 2009 showed its expenses exceeding assets by more than $75,000. Tenants’ rent payments are the apartments’ only source of income, and according to the foundation and the apartments’ manager a large number of tenants were behind on their payments.

In August, city inspectors informed the owners of repairs they needed to make to comply with the housing code. The apartments also have a large unpaid water bill. In late September, Southern Real Estate and the foundation notified residents to move out by the end of October.

Some residents and supporters protested that one month was not enough time for them to find new housing that they could afford. Some also had no money to pay moving expenses and deposits on other apartments.

During a protest march downtown Monday, several tenants said they intended to stay in their apartments until forced out. The city has pledged to leave the apartments’ water on as long as people are living there, despite the overdue bill.

Wise: 919-641-5895

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