Garner Cleveland Record

‘Dire need’ – Wake officials seek help for Garner families losing housing

Wake County commissioners again went to bat for Forest Hills Apartments residents Friday, urging area landlords and community groups to help many of the residents find new affordable housing.

The new owner of the 35-year-old Garner complex announced plans in March for a renovation that would require the residents to clear out. After the renovation, Eller Capital Partners told residents, it will no longer accept housing-assistance payments.

About 70 percent of the 136-unit complex is reserved for people who receive federal housing subsidies. During a Friday news conference featuring Wake and Garner officials, county board Chairman Sig Hutchinson stressed that time is running out for 40 residents, some of whom have children.

“We’ve assisted over 110 residents and have found new housing for 69 of those, which means 40 citizens and their families are in dire need of affordable housing,” Hutchinson said. “In many ways, this is no different than a flood or a fire situation, where honest, good folks at no fault of their own find themselves in a bad situation and quite possibly could be on the street and homeless if we don’t assist.”

It appears the residents have until June 15 to vacate their apartments, but the critical date has been a moving target. The notice delivered to residents in March said they had until April 30 to leave or face eviction. After an outcry by residents a couple of weeks later, commissioners announced they had arranged for the residents to stay until June 15.

On April 26, residents received another notice listing the date as April 30. Since then, commissioners said the developer assured them no one would be forced out before June 15.

“We feel like we’re being threatened,” said Yolanda Smith, who lives in the complex with her 14-year-old daughter. “It’s very stressful on children, especially the older children who know what’s going on. ... It’s hard on all of us.”

The affordable housing search is difficult anywhere, Smith said, but especially where it is in short supply in Wake County.

“It has implications not only for Forest Hills and the dilemma they are going through, but for so many other communities across our great county,” Wake Commissioner James West said.

Smith said there are waiting lists and properties that are not accepting applications. Some commissioners experienced those challenges recently after accepting a challenge by community activist Octavia Rainey to put themselves in the residents’ shoes.

“With all that’s going on with the whole (complex) looking for housing and trying to stay within the area, it’s ridiculous,” Smith said. “It’s like residents are competing against one another.”

Hutchinson on several occasions plugged the number for the Wake County Housing Division, 919-856-5689, asking anyone who can help the residents to call.

“If you’re a member of the faith community, and you would like to assist one of these families in housing or to land on their feet, call this number,” he said. “If you have an apartment that is available for Section 8 vouchers, call the number.”