By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Apartments under construction on 36th Avenue Northwest and Tecumseh Road are not low-income housing. On the contrary, the apartments are market value aimed at young professionals.
The Windsor multi-family project drew strong protest at city hall in November 2012 when zoning was approved by the Norman City Council.
Now, concerned residents in nearby neighborhoods have been raising an alarm because of fears that the upscale apartment complex under construction is really low-income housing. Those fears are based on a sign identifying the apartment complex under construction as a HUD-financed project.
“Construction started a few weeks ago,” reads an anonymous letter sent to The Transcript. “Not high end. HUD apartments ... city council was lied to ... “
HUD is often most well known for assistance to families needing low-income housing, but HUD’s programs are many and varied. HUD loans include multi-family housing projects that, like FHA loans for homeowners, are low-interest loans available to anyone.
“The project is not subsidized by HUD, is not government subsidized low-income housing, is not a Section 8 housing project,” said attorney Sean Rieger, who represented the applicant during the zoning request.
“The project has a loan, which FHA insures for which the developer pays a fee,” Rieger said. “The FHA requires that it be built at a high quality.”
According to information available on the HUD website under information on multi-family housing projects, “All families are eligible to occupy dwellings in a structure whose mortgage is insured under this program, subject to normal tenant selection. There are no income limits.”
Norman Revitalization Manager Linda Price confirmed that the project is not subsidized or low-income housing. Any such project would have to come through her office.
“The FHA does not place income limitations on the tenants,” Rieger said. “The amenities and design will include features such as attached and detached garages, nine-foot ceilings, crown molding, French patio doors, a clubhouse, fitness center and numerous high-end finish details throughout.”
On Nov. 27, 2012, concerned residents packed Norman city hall to protest the proposed apartment complex.
Protesters had gathered 835 signatures on a petition opposing the adjustment of the 2025 Land Use and Transportation Plan and the accompanying zoning change required for the development to move forward.
During that November debate, Rieger said the complex would target young professionals and will have 65 percent one-bedroom units.
Protester Heath Hans said the funding from Housing and Urban Development is making the project possible. He said with interest costs so low, he questions why HUD financing is needed.
At that time, former council member Hal Ezzell said HUD financing has been mischaracterized.
A local developer explained Wednesday that one-bedroom apartments are more expensive to build. They require kitchen, bathroom and full utilities, and with only one bedroom, rent must be significantly lower.
In fact, single-room occupancy projects are listed as multi-family projects likely to be insured under the cooperative housing program. These programs are not low-income projects.
In Fiscal Year 2013, HUD insured mortgages for 160 projects, with 24,997 units totaling $2.47 billion, according to the website.
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