Wake County

At another affordable housing complex in downtown Raleigh, residents have to move

Wintershaven was built in 1979 by developer John Winters Sr., Raleigh’s first African-American City Councilman. It was purchased June 6, 2017, by a Texas-based investor.
Wintershaven was built in 1979 by developer John Winters Sr., Raleigh’s first African-American City Councilman. It was purchased June 6, 2017, by a Texas-based investor. hgargan@newsobserver.com

Ann Gardner remembers the date she moved into Wintershaven Apartments on East Hargett Street: Dec. 1, 1979.

After growing up in Moore County and living in Asheboro for a while, Gardner came to Raleigh and rented an affordable apartment at Wintershaven on the eastern edge of downtown. The 60-unit complex is federally subsidized for low-income residents, mostly senior citizens and people with disabilities.

By next summer, Gardner and her neighbors at Wintershaven will have to find somewhere else to live – not an easy task as rent prices in Raleigh continue to rise.

In June, an investment group in Austin, Texas, bought the apartment building. The buyers plan to upfit the property and convert the one-bedroom units into traditional apartments that won’t be subsidized, said Ed Batchelor, president and part-owner of Trademark Residential, which manages Wintershaven.

Trademark is working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to secure Section 8 housing vouchers for residents who can’t afford to stay when the rent subsidies end in August 2018, Batchelor said.

“I can’t talk much about it without crying,” Gardner said. “It’s hard for me to accept. And it’s just not fair, when the people here are doing everything we can to survive. We do what’s required of us. We pay our rent, whatever we can afford.”

The sale of Wintershaven is another blow to affordable housing in downtown Raleigh, which is seeing lots of new development. Sir Walter Apartments, a 140-unit senior-housing complex on Fayetteville Street where rent is subsidized by HUD, is under contract to be purchased.

The developer wants to turn the 10-story building into a hotel, offices or apartments. Residents, all of them age 62 and older, must find a new home by the time the HUD contract expires in 2020.

Wintershaven is a block away from The Lincoln, a 224-unit apartment complex that opened in 2015 where one-bedroom apartments rent for more than $1,000 a month. Hargett Place, a development of luxury townhomes, is under construction nearby.

Many residents at Wintershaven live solely on Social Security income, said assistant property manager Dinorah Czigler. So their options are limited.

“Especially for the people who are disabled, there aren’t too many places to go,” Czigler said. “It’s very difficult for them. We’re trying to do as much as possible to help them, to see if we can get vouchers for them and let them know we’re doing the best we can.”

Czigler said she tries hard to make life comfortable at Wintershaven, where she greets residents by name. She organizes holiday events, bingo games and church services in the community room.

The complex was built in 1979 by John Winters Sr., a real estate investor and Raleigh’s first African-American to serve on the City Council. He died in 2004.

Gardner said she has fond memories of Winters, and it’s tough to see this part of his legacy being uprooted.

“He was a caring person,” Gardner said. “He didn’t care who you were, where you came from. He just tried to provide.”

Now, Gardner isn’t sure where she will move.

“I’d like to stay in Raleigh,” she said. “I don’t have many friends, and the ones I do have are here, in this building.”

Wayman Turner, 87, doesn’t know where he will end up, either. He’s lived at Wintershaven for four years. He said a social worker is helping him fill out applications for new housing.

“We’ve all built this love and that connection,” Czigler said. “Then, oh my God, we realize they’re going to split up. It’s hard for them, but it’s hard for us as well, because we want for them to be happy.”

Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan