Chapel Hill News

Speakers caution council on developer concerns

Candace Lowndes called maintenance when the hose to her neighbor’s washing machine broke this summer, flooding her downstairs apartment at The Landings at Winmore.

They responded but didn’t do anything, she said, and the apartment flooded again. Fearing mold might be next and trigger her daughter’s allergies and asthma, Lowndes asked management to remove damaged ceiling and wall panels. They put fans in her apartment to dry it out, she said.

“Basically the management person was rude and unprofessional on every occasion that I’ve come into the office to speak with her about anything. She’s absolutely not helpful in any way,” Lowndes said. “About a month later, I realized there was mold in my bedroom on my belongings.”

Several residents and housing advocates spoke Monday at the Town Council’s public hearing for the Edge project on Eubanks Road.

Their concerns about Edge developer Northwood Ravin stem from its perceived ties to Crosland LLC, owner of The Landings and Dobbins Hill, located off U.S. 15-501 in Chapel Hill.

Residents are experiencing similar problems at Dobbins Hill, said Stephanie Perry, a member of Orange County Justice United’s strategy team. That suggests those companies have a “culture of indifference to the well-being of low-income residents,” she said.

Justice United and Carrboro leaders have been working to resolve residents’ problems at The Landings since 2011, ranging from mold and poorly maintained units to absentee management, restricted access to amenities and punitive treatment. The low-income housing tax credit development, located on Homestead Road, is managed by WRH Realty.

Landings resident Brandy Hunter said the complex has had five managers in five years. The current manager is “unprofessional, lacks knowledge of maintenance repair issues, poorly trained and often unavailable,” she said.

“There are more unhappy and unsatisfied residents than you see here from both complexes. But since intimidation and retaliation are a huge factor, as well, they remain silent,” Hunter said. “I honestly feel as though our own management looks down on us, because we are in affordable housing.”

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said she wants to help Chapel Hill avoid the same issues. Carrboro plans to follow up with the nonprofit N.C. Housing Finance Agency about conditions at The Landings, she said. The state agency allocates affordable housing funds, inspects properties and ensures compliance with government regulations.

State housing spokeswoman Margaret Matrone said the Landings at Winmore was last inspected in February. The only reports she had on file were from the previous issues, which she said had been addressed in 2012.

Northwood Ravin’s president and chief executive officer David Ravin worked at Crosland for 14 years and led its multifamily division until Crosland sold it in 2011. Northwood Ravin is a joint effort between Ravin Partners and New York-based Northwood Investors.

Northwood Ravin attorney Michael Birch said they don’t have any ties now to Crosland, and WRH Realty is a direct competitor.

“We just wanted to set the record straight and also acknowledge that if what we’ve heard is true – and there’s no reason to believe that it’s not – that’s an unacceptable response in property management on their behalf,” he said. “That’s not something that Northwood Ravin would accept as a part of the management of its community and its affordable housing communities.”