New housing complex has tough new rules Strict lease causes some to balk at signing

October 02, 1997|By Marilyn McCraven | Marilyn McCraven,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's Housing Authority has established tough new rules for residents of its just-opened Pleasant View Gardens housing complex -- policies that have some prospective tenants balking at signing a lease.

The rules for Pleasant View Gardens, built east of downtown to replace the demolished Lafayette Courts high-rises, are designed to keep the complex safe and attractive. The rules range from restrictions on the types of draperies that may be hung to such matters as whether tenants adequately control their children or cut their lawns.

Among other lease provisions are prohibitions against residents painting their homes or hanging laundry outside or inside, and a requirement that residents on public assistance be involved in programs designed to get them off welfare.

Yvonne Slater, acting vice president for the complex's tenant council, says she's undecided about moving to the new development because the rules are so strict she fears she would be more likely to be subject to eviction than she would at other public housing.

"There are a lot more things you can get sanctioned for," Slater said. "I don't know anyone who likes" the new lease.

But Daniel P. Henson III, executive director of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, defended the tightened rules for the $105 million complex, which welcomed its first tenants last week.

"I don't think that I am asking residents of Pleasant View Gardens to do anything that a private apartment complex

wouldn't demand," Henson said.

He expressed little patience for those who felt they could not abide by the lease's provisions.

"They can go live somewhere else," he said. "I've got 28,000 people wanting to live there; people are literally lining up every morning who want to live there."

Pleasant View Gardens takes the place of the high-rise Lafayette Courts public housing project, which was demolished two years ago as part of the city's plan to replace unsafe, high-density complexes with rowhouse developments.

Eventually, the complex is to contain 228 rowhouses, 110 apartments for the elderly, a day care center, and a recreation and community center.

Former residents of Lafayette Courts will be given first preference for housing at Pleasant View Gardens.

In recent years, rules for residents of public housing projects have generally become more restrictive. For example, under the federal "one-strike" rule, tenants may face eviction if their children are arrested for drug violations.

But the rules for Pleasant View Gardens go far beyond those that have been set in the past. Where the old lease had a couple of lines devoted to prohibitions involving criminal conduct, for example, the new lease has several paragraphs.

5 percent late-rent penalty

Also, under the new lease, tenants who pay their rent late may be subject to a 5 percent penalty. Also, a $25 fee may be charged for bounced checks.

The old lease says nothing about bounced checks. Those who paid their rent late were said to be subject to court costs incurred by the landlord trying to collect past-due rent.

And the new lease requires that all draperies hung must have a white backing to give a uniform look to the exterior of the complex.

Prospective tenants have until Oct. 25 to comment on the new rules in writing to the Housing Authority or to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which must approve changes in the lease.

L HUD officials did not return calls for comment on the lease.

American Civil Liberties Union officials, who have represented Housing Authority tenants in the past, would not comment on the lease.

Some prospective tenants agree with Henson that tougher rules are desirable.

One of those is Janice Bagwell.

"Before, tenants used to break the rules and management would give them chance after chance, but they kept getting into trouble," Bagwell said. "Now, they're saying, 'We're not going to do that anymore,' and that's good."

But Slater, 30, who has five children and lived in Lafayette Courts for eight years, is particularly concerned about rules regarding the control of children.

"There are rocks in the area where they play behind the houses, and children will be children -- they are going to throw rocks," she said.

Slater worries that she might face eviction if her children throw rocks and break windows.

Of Slater's concern, Henson said: "Systems are in place to make sure people don't get unduly punished. I don't think people will get evicted for things like that, but they may have to pay for a broken window."

Too much scrutiny

Slater is also concerned that tenants and their guests will be subject to too much scrutiny because of tightened security: "We heard that they're going to have security cameras," directed at traffic in the development.

Henson wouldn't comment on whether security cameras would be used, saying he didn't want to alert criminals to the types of security measures that will be used.

He said Housing Authority police may ask visitors to show identification.

Housing Authority employees will work with residents to teach them how to care for their lawns and homes, Henson said.

The development will be privately managed by ART Management Inc.

While city housing officials asked for tenant help in writing the new lease, few tenants attended planning sessions to discuss provisions of the lease, said Linda Love, president of the complex's tenant council.

It was only a week ago, at a tenant council meeting, that much opposition to the new lease was heard, said several people who attended the meeting.

Pub Date: 10/02/97

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