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Low-income apartments targeted for renovation
$18 million investment will update units, convert some for disabled
Renovations are planned for the Ridgecrest Apartments off Park Hill Drive in Gainesville. Windows, appliances, floors and paint will be updated as necessary, and a second bathroom will be added to all three-bedroom units. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Big renovations are planned for the Ridgecrest apartments off Park Hill Drive in Gainesville, a welcome respite for resident Terrie Powers, who has absorbed the deteriorating quality of the homes over 24 years but wouldn’t think about leaving.

“Everyone gets along in the building,” Powers said at a community meeting on the project held at the Fair Street neighborhood center on Tuesday. “We have our little qualms now and then.”

That seems to keep things interesting, however. The remark drew laughs from the 10 or so female neighbors in attendance.

The 130-unit Ridgecrest complex provides subsidized two- and three-bedroom apartments for low-income individuals and families.

It is one of just five Section 8 properties in all of Hall County, which restricts tenants’ out-of-pocket rent payments to 30 percent of their income.

It is on the radar of the Georgia Legal Services Program, which has launched a housing preservation project to counter the affordable housing crunch in Gainesville.

With 65 percent of all residents in the city renting, and half of them paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing, the market is nothing if not tight.

The planned $18 million investment, which will be submitted to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs this week for approval, includes converting 15 percent of all units into accessible homes for disabled persons, while updating exterior lighting, plumbing and roofing, and adding a new community garden, clubhouse and an expanded laundry room.

Windows, appliances, floors and paint will be updated as necessary, and a second bathroom will be added to all three-bedroom units.

But the renovations hinge entirely on whether the project receives low-income housing tax credits to cushion the property owner’s costs.

It’s a competitive process with no guarantees.

A decision from the DCA won’t come until the fall.

With affordable housing in such demand, representatives from the Winn Companies said they expect the DCA to give greater consideration to projects that are focused on renovating existing housing rather than proposing new construction.

Plans for Ridgecrest come after three apartment complexes, also located off Park Hill Drive in Gainesville that primarily house working-class minorities and immigrants, received a major facelift last year with a better than $2 million investment from new owner Greenleaf Management.

The Brentwood, Norwood and Versailles complexes near Clarks Bridge Road, which together total 213 multi-family units, sold to Greenleaf for $5.4 million.

Renovations included window replacements, sidewalk installation, landscaping, parking lot repairs, new security lights in parking lots and building hallways, sport court improvements at Norwood, new paint trim at Versailles and mail kiosk upgrades at Versailles and Brentwood.

Improving the conditions at Ridgecrest could also drive up property values in surrounding neighborhoods and spur new business activity.

Residents said they were only concerned with whether they would lose their homes when and if the apartments are renovated, which could come as early as next spring.

Representatives from Winn said that any relocation during the renovations would be temporary and paid for.

All units will remain Section 8 eligible.

“This is important,” Cheryl Castleberry, a resident for more than two years and active community volunteer, said. “I feel like we should come together and get this expedited.”