Racism alleged in Armour apartment fight

bainbridgeA battle over Section 8 apartments and crime on Armour Boulevard escalated this week when a federal court action alleged city officials tried to force poor black residents out of the Hyde Park area.

The federal fair housing complaint was filed Wednesday with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Eagle Point Cos, which owns and operates the Bainbridge, Georgian Court and Linda Vista Apartments, filed against the city, Councilman Jim Glover, the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority and Peter Cassel, director of MAC Property.

Eagle Point contends that Cassel, whose companies have renovated more than 20 historic buildings along Armour into market rate apartments, colluded with city officials in an effort to take over ownership and management of the Section 8 buildings and relocate the occupants.

Cassel could not be reached for comment today.

Hyde Park neighbors of the Bainbridge at 900 E. Armour have long attacked it for contributing to crime problems.

Glover, who lives in North Hyde Park, has said he worked with neighbors and officials for years on the issue, and the legal action this week used Freedom of Information documents to get to what it calls records of the secret “Bainbridge Strategy Group.”

The meetings led up to the PIEA filing a novel “social liability” blight finding against the buildings for causing crime.

City officials said in public last year they wanted to get the attention of Eagle Point management to force changes.

Glover, who could not be reached for comment today, also said last year that some of the Section 8 residents needed to be moved, with help from the city.

He and others likened the effects of concentrated poverty in the units to problems caused by large public housing projects that have been imploded in many cities.

Glover also said the crime problem was inhibiting efforts to spread Armour Boulevard redevelopment east of Troost.

Eagle Point contends the crime study establishing social blight was wrong, contrived and part of an attempt to take its property.

Eagle Point and the city at one point this year reached a compromise that was presented to the city council, dropping the social blight study.

But then Glover said more negotiation was needed and the compromise vanished from the docket.link to that story

Laura Burns, CEO of Eagle Point, said in a press release this week:

“We regret that the city and everyone named in this federal complaint have ignored and rebuked ten months of repeated good faith efforts to retract the ‘social blight’ study concocted by a few people in collusion with another private developer in an effort to take our property by eminent domain and evict hundreds of our residents.”

Eagle Point spent $61 million buying its three Armour properties from 2006 to 2008 and $31 million renovating them, the press release states.

It has rehabilitated more than 4,300 housing units in eight states and remains committed to affordable housing, the release states.

The legal action asks for unspecified damages, punitive damages and attorney fees.

HUD normally investigates such cases to find if there is reasonable cause to believe fair housing rights were violated. Then the case can go to an administrative law judge or to federal court.



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