ENID, Okla. – With work scheduled to begin on a new affordable housing project at 1410 W. Willow in “next week to two weeks,” the developer in charge returned to Enid for a second town hall discussion to allay the concerns of resident neighbors .
Dozens of retirees from the Willow Run Housing Extension and Burgundy Place Seniors Living Community voiced their frustrations and concerns about the development, called Manor on Willow, at a previous town hall on 4 September. Many returned to the city’s administrative building on Thursday afternoon with the same issues in mind: vehicle traffic, pedestrian traffic, privacy, security and real estate values.
“I don’t like it,” said Willow Run resident Shirley Sharpe. “We are a group of retirees over there, we bought our house here because of it.”
The point of Willow Run is calm and quiet. Like many of her neighbors, Sharpe believes the addition of a nearby 60-unit apartment complex, designed for working people and low-income families, could disrupt their way of life.
“I know most people here are not happy,” Ward 6 City Commissioner David Mason said in front of the town hall crowd on Thursday. However, the developer followed all the rules and regulations required by the city to complete the project, he said. He’s moving forward, and there’s no way to slow him down or stop him.
The complex arrives, and a large part of the crowd has come to accept it. That doesn’t mean they agree with it.
“I feel a little better, but it’s still a shock that they did it the way they did,” said Sharpe, referring to the lack of communication from the developer, Neighborhood Housing Services Oklahoma, and the city of Enid.
Many residents said they did not feel aware of Manor on Willow, despite the impact they think it will have on them, only discovering critical details weeks before the demolition began. It is too late for their contribution to count, residents said.
The NHS and the city have admitted they should have been more communicative.
A representative from Belmont Development Co., the partner NHS has chosen to build and manage the apartments, was present at the meeting.
Corey Farmer, vice chairman of Belmont, said the company manages around 125 affordable housing units and has a partnership with the NHS that goes back at least six years.
“Public pushback is not unusual,” Farmer said. Misconceptions surrounding affordable housing are common and negative reactions are to be expected. He wanted to clear up some misunderstandings.
First, affordable housing and low-income housing are not the same, he said, although many confuse the two. Manor on Willow tenants will pay rent each month, with the lowest rate available at $ 500. Public support is also more limited in affordable housing projects than in low income.
Farmer also assured worried neighbors that any potential Manor on Willow tenants would be vetted.
“This is not the Wild West… not everyone who walks into the streets can live in these apartments,” he said.
Each applicant goes through a background check, credit check, and rental background check.
Anyone who has committed a crime within five years of applying is immediately disqualified, he said. The offenses will be disqualified for a period of up to three years.
Some have suggested that the affordable housing complex could easily become a hotbed of criminal activity, or at least a magnet for it.
“These are working families,” Farmer said. “Why would they want to move somewhere where there is crime?” “
“You would be surprised at certain income limits, you will see teachers, and depending on the municipality, you will see police officers, firefighters … people who still need a safe, decent and affordable place to live but the the market just won’t stand it because the rents are too high. “
Farmer pointed out that this project, and ones like this, are made possible not just by public aid, but by public and private partnerships.
In this case, the tax credits are granted by the IRS and then sold to investors. The IRS grants these tax credits on the condition that the receiving company provides housing for people living under certain income guidelines.
“These units, when completed, will be able to achieve higher rents in the market than what we charge,” he said. “They could serve other types of tenants, but that’s not our goal, it’s not the mission of the NHS. It’s to help working families who need a decent place to live , not just a slum somewhere on the other side of town. “
New renderings and a few finer details have also been made available at the Second Town Hall, but responses to residents’ concerns have changed little.
At this point, there are no plans to install a traffic light along Willow to combat the increased traffic residents are anticipating.
For those worried about Manor’s tenants roaming Willow Run, there is no real answer.
When it comes to stray tenants, these are the children Sharpe considers the most.
“Our addition is not suitable for children. The streets are narrow, there is no room for children to play here,” she said. “What if a child comes out in front of you?” “
There’s not much else to do but wait and see, residents said, hoping their concerns are unfounded.
Construction of the Manor on Willow is expected to be completed in November or December 2020.