Cathy Pulliam moved into the Linwood Apartments in Gainesville in 2013 to care for her ailing mother.
Their unit was better maintained than some, she said, though the kitchen sink pipes would frequently leak.
Since laying her mother to rest in February, Pulliam has remained in the apartment the two shared. Now, she could be one beneficiary of about $5 million in renovations planned for Linwood, a project that will upgrade low-income housing at a time when quality, affordable housing in Gainesville has grown scarce.
Linwood Apartments’ planned renovations
- $5 million in rehab planned
- Property will remain restricted to low-income (and disabled) tenants
- One-year project timeline to begin in November
“I’m hoping to move into a one-bedroom, right over there,” Pulliam said one afternoon last week, pointing across the apartment complex.
Last fall, hundreds of lower-income families in Gainesville faced significant rent increases as apartment complexes in the city exited, or began the process of exiting, a state tax credit program that kept costs below market rates.
The complexes also began refusing Section 8 voucher subsidies on rents, which caused several families who spoke with The Times last fall to prepare to relocate.
According to the state Department of Community Affairs, there are currently 177 Section 8 voucher holders in Hall County compared with 208 at the same time in 2017. There are 157 additional families currently on a waiting list (which is capped at about 14,000) for a voucher.
The waiting list for public housing in Gainesville, meanwhile, spiked to 1,600 from 250 in just a few months as a result of these rising rents at formerly low-income complexes, according to the local Housing Authority.
Across Gainesville, more than 50 percent of all renters are considered “cost-burdened,” according to census figures, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. More than 60 percent of households in the city limits are renter-occupied.
Linwood is unique in that it will remain 100 percent project-based Section 8 housing, meaning the subsidy is tied to the unit rather than the tenant, and is non-transferrable.
There are just five such properties in Hall County operating under the project-based Section 8 model: Church Street Manor, Lighthouse Manor, Lake Forest Apartments, Ridgecrest Apartments and Linwood.
But reports of roach infestations, plumbing failures that led to flooding, mold and other problems at Linwood have been frequent and documented by The Times over the last several years.
Cathy Moses, who has lived at Linwood for three years, said she had to recently get assistance from the Georgia Legal Services Program to compel Linwood to fix her broken air conditioner.
Under new ownership, Linwood is poised for an update. Representatives from Vitus, a national developer of affordable housing projects, told The Times that they have earmarked about $45,000 in rehab costs for each of the 100 units at Linwood.
According to Vitus, interior renovations will include drywall replacement, new windows, appliances, cabinets and countertops, updated lighting and paint, new split-system HVAC units and water heaters, and replaced flooring and plumbing fixtures.
Exterior renovations will include concrete replacement, wooden stairway replacement, additional dumpster enclosure, new signage, relocating the leasing office and converting the existing leasing building to a community and laundry room.
A new gazebo and playground are also planned.
The property will also become compliant with laws requiring disability access to the complex and 5 percent of units will be equipped and available for disabled persons.
Vitus intends to begin renovations this November with a one-year construction timeline.
The rehab will require relocating eight units at a time to a nearby complex for approximately 20 days, and Vitus has hired a firm to assist in this process and help with moving tenants.
Vitus will also employ a new property management firm with experience in the affordable housing and project-based Section 8 market, according to representatives.
Vitus plans to finance these renovations through a mix of bond revenue and state tax credits.
The Gainesville City Council will have to sign off on the proposed renovations and financing next month, though it holds no monetary obligations.