HUD waiver would allow 5 tenants to stay in Chapin apartments

February 21, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

Five tenants at Ye Village Green, a Westminster apartment complex owned by City Councilman Stephen R. Chapin Sr., may be able to keep their rent-subsidized apartments under a conflict-of-interest waiver approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

As a condition of waiving its regulations, HUD will require the City Council to bar Mr. Chapin from voting on any measure that could benefit him financially or exercising city responsibilities connected to housing aid.

Mr. Chapin and his son, Stephen R. Chapin Jr., bought the 39 apartments at Sullivan and Shaeffer avenues Nov. 1, 1993.

Councilman Chapin refused to comment on whether he will fight the restriction proposed by HUD.

"I have to get a legal interpretation of how many limitations they're putting on me," he said.

He also declined to comment on specific restrictions, such as whether the HUD ban on participation would bar him from voting on the city budget. He is consulting City Attorney John B. Walsh Jr.

HUD officials granted the waiver "to avoid hardship on the families," said Bill Tamburrino, director of public housing in the agency's Baltimore office.

Mr. Chapin's position as owner of the apartments violates a regulation that bars elected city officials from receiving HUD money, Mr. Tamburrino said. Without the waiver, HUD would suspend payments that cover up to 70 percent of low-income tenants' rents. The tenants would have to move.

The City Council is scheduled to vote Feb. 28 on the ban on Mr. Chapin's participation in votes that would benefit him financially.

The federal housing agency wants the resolution to say:

"Councilman Chapin is hereby prohibited from participating in any vote which would have a direct financial impact upon himself, his immediate family or his partnership and shall not exercise functions or responsibilities on behalf of the city in any matter which would impact directly or indirectly" on housing assistance payments.

Three of the five tenants at Ye Village Green are elderly women who have lived in their apartments for more than 10 years. One is a single mother with a son; another is a family of three.

Westminster has a low apartment vacancy rate, which would make it difficult for those tenants to find new housing, said Karen K. Blandford, the city's housing, community development and personnel director.

"But even if there was housing out there, it would make me very sad to ask anyone who's lived there . . . to move out," Ms. Blandford said.

Mr. Tamburrino said the waiver is effective only for current tenants. The agency will not approve housing aid for any new tenants while the elder Mr. Chapin remains in a conflict-of-interest situation, he said.

The councilman hinted that he may try to win a General Assembly seat.

Mr. Tamburrino said that if Mr. Chapin trades his council seat for one in the state legislature, he would no longer be in violation of HUD regulations. But the ban on new tenants receiving rent aid at Ye Village Green would remain in effect for one year.

The city government has spent about $850 on legal services associated with Mr. Chapin's conflict of interest.

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