Takilma Village to lose subsidized status

The back office at Pacific Properties has a banner on the wall declaring the upcoming end of subsidized housing at its Takilma Village apartments on Emerick Street.

To property owner Ron DeLuca and his staff, the sign represents the end of reams of paperwork and stringent requirements from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

To Takilma Village tenants, the sign is a source of uncertainty and worry about where to go next. Several people have lived there for more than 10 years, and many of the children have never known another home.

The apartments were built in 1969 as a HUD project that requires buildings to stay affordable for a period of 30 to 40 years, according to Ashland Housing Specialist Linda Reid. Takilma Village's 40-year requirement ends on Feb. 1, 2010, not a moment too soon for Pacific Property Manager Curt Brown.

Once the required affordability period is over, property owners can opt to sign yearly contracts with HUD, but the company did not consider renewing any agreement for Takilma Village because of the paperwork required, Brown said.

"There's a lot of rigmarole you have to go through to get somebody verified," he said, holding up a 500-sheet package of paper to represent the forms required for each tenant, every year. "You're probably putting in 30 hours or so a month just to get someone certified."

The Takilma Village apartments are one of six affordable properties in Ashland regulated by the state of Oregon HUD office. There are also properties administered by the Department of Agriculture and Housing Authority of Jackson County, as well as homes set aside by the City of Ashland through annexation and zone changes, Reid said.

Takilma Village is the sixth housing project to reach its affordability expiration in Ashland, and a few more properties are approaching the end of their agreements. Landlords of the five previous Ashland properties have all opted not to renew their affordability agreements and switched to accepting HUD vouchers instead, said Cara Carter, director of tenant services for the Housing Authority of Jackson County.

"What we've seen is that the landlords just want out," she said. "Either their kids don't want to do it, or they're tired of the paperwork. It's very labor intensive."

Tenants living on affordable properties when the agreement expires are guaranteed a voucher that will cover any rent above one-third of their income, but it is still a change they must deal with, she said.

"It's not really a big change, but it seems big to them," she said. "The assistance is now tied to them and not their apartments. They could take this voucher and go anywhere they wanted to."

She said tenants shouldn't worry about having to relocate unless the rents rise so much that the vouchers wouldn't cover the increase. Given the high rate of rental vacancies and condition of the building, Carter said she doesn't expect that to happen.

DeLuca has not decided if he will renovate Takilma Village after the February 2010 deadline or what rent he will charge, Brown said, and residents of Takilma Village are still fearful of the upcoming changes.

"We want better for our kids, but this right here is what's keeping 18 families off the streets and not sleeping in their cars," said Melissa Huston, a single parent with three children. "There's nowhere to go in Ashland. We've tried. Who wants to say 'Let's just move to another city?'"

The families at the apartments are mostly single parents with children, and several tenants have lived there longer than 10 years, residents said. They like the schools, the central location in town and the long-standing relationships with their neighbors.

"It's hard to leave, especially when you've lived here as long as you can remember," said Chris Powers, 18, who has lived at Takilma Village with his mother and younger brother for 15 years. He had a great childhood there, he said.

"All the kids got along, all the parents got along," he said. "I can't believe this is the same place."

If residents do have to move, staying in Ashland could be a problem, Reid said.

"The question would really be, are there enough properties within the income range in order for them to afford them even with a voucher?" she said. "If you make $500 a month, they're not going to let you rent a $2,000 a month house. They will say, 'This is the range of rents that you can pay."

Staff writer Julie French can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or jfrench@dailytidings.com.

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