Conflict with HUD rules may force tenants from Chapin complex

November 21, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Westminster Councilman Stephen R. Chapin Sr.'s recent purchase of an apartment complex, where some tenants receive federal housing aid, presents a conflict of interest for the city and may mean that five tenants -- three of them elderly women -- have to move.

Mr. Chapin and his son Stephen R. Chapin Jr. bought Ye Village Green this month, a 39-unit complex at Sullivan and Schaefer avenues. Five tenants receive help paying their rent from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Section 8 program.

Section 8 pays about 70 percent of the rent for low-income families that meet certain income guidelines. The families live in privately owned apartments, and the landlords receive HUD money.

In Westminster, the city's certification to participate in the Section 8 program is in the name of the mayor and City Council, said Karen K. Blandford, supervisor of the city's Office of Housing, Community Development and Personnel.

HUD rules say the mayor and council members cannot receive HUD money for rental properties while they are in office and for one year after they leave office, she said.

Mr. Chapin said last week he did not know about the restriction when he bought the complex. He and his son formed Westminster Real Estate L.L.C. to buy the three-acre property as an investment, he said.

Mortgage records show they paid $700,000 for the complex.

The city has asked HUD to waive the restriction so the five tenants do not have to move, Ms. Blandford said. The three elderly women are long-term tenants; one woman has lived there for 32 years, she said.

The other two tenants who receive HUD assistance are families with children, Ms. Blandford said.

She said about 275 families receive HUD money in Westminster each month, but this is the first time the city has asked HUD for a waiver.

HUD officials expect to make a decision this week about whether to waive the rule, said Bill Tamburrino, director of public housing in HUD's Baltimore office.

Waivers are not often granted, he said.

"We need good reason. Our interest, of course, is to cause as little disruption to the residents as possible," he said.

Larry Hatcher, deputy manager of the Baltimore office, said, "It's important [the residents] not get lost in this process."

Mayor W. Benjamin Brown wrote HUD Nov. 12 to say he supports the waiver. Mr. Brown said he wants the tenants to be allowed to stay "since decent and affordable rental housing is difficult to come by within our community.

"I would like to state my personal belief that Mr. Chapin is being absolutely truthful in stating that the conflict with HUD regulations is entirely inadvertent on his part," the mayor wrote.

Ms. Blandford agreed.

"Everything has been real open and aboveboard," she said.

Mr. Chapin said he will not accept any new tenants who receive HUD money and is holding all HUD money in an escrow account until the issue is resolved.

Mr. Chapin said it is ironic that if he were a state senator or county commissioner instead of a city councilman, there would be no conflict.

Mr. Chapin, who is in his first term on the council, said he is considering running for county commissioner in 1994.

Three weeks ago, he resigned his job as sales manager of Centaur Press, the commercial printing division of Landmark Community Newspapers of Maryland Inc., which publishes the Carroll County Times. Mr. Chapin said last week he will leave the company in a few weeks.

He said he will manage the apartment complex full time.

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