City buys Uplands complex for $20

About 500 new houses, apartments planned

Tenants must leave by Friday

January 12, 2004|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

In another step toward creation of a major new housing development in Southwest Baltimore, the city has taken title to a mostly vacant 970-unit low-income apartment complex and given the 19 families who still live there until Friday to move out.

The city bought the approximately 50-acre Uplands Apartments site off Edmondson Avenue near the Baltimore County line from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Dec. 31 for $20. Preliminary plans call for the construction of more than 500 new housing units, at a cost of about $100 million. The property is considered highly desirable because of its sloping contour and location amid stable middle- and upper-income neighborhoods.

"We're very optimistic that this project is moving ahead expeditiously after some earlier delays and that this will be a model community," city housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano said Friday.

Graziano and Deputy Commissioner Douglass Austin said the remaining families have Section 8 rental certificates or a special city rental subsidy and that those that can't find housing by the end of the week would be placed in temporary accommodations.

They said they would like to demolish the dozens of garden apartments on the site as soon as possible after the tenants move.

HUD bought Uplands Apartments at a foreclosure sale in June for $10.2 million - an amount that equaled the outstanding debt on a federally backed mortgage issued to a private owner who defaulted on the loan.

The federal housing agency had promised at the time to find new housing for the two dozen families living there, but relocation efforts were delayed - in part by a legal dispute between HUD and the tenants - and only a handful have been moved since then.

Gregory Countess, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Bureau who has been working with the tenants, said the relocation issues are "complicated."

"Everybody's got probably a different circumstance," he added.

In a couple of cases, Countess said, tenants have found alternatives with Section 8 rental certificates, but housing officials and landlords have not been able to agree on the amount of the rent.

Meanwhile, a draft plan calls for the construction of more than 500 housing units, including apartments, rowhouses and detached homes, most of them for sale in prices ranging from $100,000 to $350,000, said David Dixon, a principal in Boston-based Goody, Clancy Associates, which has spearheaded a six-month community planning process.

Half of the units will be available to households with incomes of no more than about $54,000 a year - an amount equal to 80 percent of the regional median household income, which meets the federal government's definition of affordability.

"I think it's going to improve the west side dramatically if it goes through as planned," said Dana McKee, who heads Ten Hills Community Association.

One issue still to be resolved is the desire for additional parking for the nearby New Psalmist Baptist Church, which has about 7,000 members.

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