New apartment owners plan to reduce student housing

Jessica Thompson

Miscommunication between management and residents of the West Bank’s Seven Corners Apartments has led to debates over how an upcoming shift in ownership will affect renters — more than 70 percent of whom are students.
In early October, the West Bank Community Development Corporation announced their proposal to purchase the building. Since then, concerns of student displacement have been circulating throughout the building, said CDC executive director Tim Mungavan.
One of the largest topics of debate among tenants is CDC’s tentative plan to increase the number of low-income residents to 20 percent of capacity, Mungavan said. By doing so, the company would qualify to receive a tax-exempt bond, which could save the owners up to $1 million.
The plan has many people concerned that students could be left out in the cold in the near future.
“I haven’t been able to get a straight answer about what is going on,” said resident Sean McTaggart. “But I know that students are the community here. Forcing one community out to bring another in is pretty ridiculous.”
Mungavan said any population changes in the building would be achieved through attrition.
“We’d like to see more diversity in the future, but students definitely will not be kicked out,” he said. He added that students who leave would probably be replaced by tenants meeting the low-income conditions.
Tenant and University Spanish and global studies junior Chiana Loreti said she feels the needs of student residents are being ignored.
“There is such a housing shortage as it is, and it is completely unfair to say that because we’re students we don’t qualify for affordable housing,” she said.
Mungavan said the attrition plan has been abandoned for the present, but that it remains a possibility for next year.
In response to growing concerns about the management change, the CDC released informational fliers to all tenants. But some say these fliers, combined with direct interactions with the CDC, only increased their confusion.
“I was told by someone at CDC that they were going to turn the building into Section 8 housing, which a full-time student couldn’t qualify for,” McTaggart said. “Yet at the same time, all the fliers say students will always be able to live in Seven Corners.”
Tenant and English freshman Meegan Carra said she thinks vague information increased tenant frustrations.
“Nobody explained whether or not we’d be able to renew our leases, and the fliers we got just said the change would affect some residents,” Carra said. “They’ve made it pretty hard to know what’s really going on.”
Meetings held on Oct. 11 and 12 were intended to clear up tenant confusion and anger, said David Swanson, a member of the Seven Corners Board of Directors.
A recent flier distributed to residents said that at the Oct. 12 meeting, residents voted to support the CDC acquisition. But Mungavan said only 16 of the estimated 650 residents attended the meeting.
McTaggart said he thinks management was trying to avoid public dissent by distributing fliers about the meeting only one day ahead of time.
“If I had known about it a week ahead of time, I could have rearranged my schedule,” McTaggart said. “They (informed residents) so quickly that nobody could react to it, because they don’t want people to react to it.”
Swanson argues that the CDC made a fair effort to include everybody in the meetings.
“All of the residents were invited,” he said. “The CDC wants residents to have a voice in discussion and have stake in what management does.”
Another concern is that current building management, provided by the Shelter Corporation, could be discharged as a result of the management shift.
“We are very disappointed to lose this management deal, but our main concern is what will happen to the employees,” said Jean Ferguson, Shelter Corporation’s director of operations.
Mungavan said all current staff will be interviewed for a chance to keep their present positions.
The CDC has co-owned the building with two partners since 1984, but a clause in the original contract gave them a one-time option to purchase the building in 2000.
Mungavan said students should not be concerned about the change in management, and that all changes will be gradual.
“Nobody will be seeing eviction notices as a result of the change,” he said. “The residents probably won’t even notice the difference.”

Jessica Thompson welcomes comments at (612) 627-4070 x3232. She can also be reached at [email protected]