CINCINNATI - Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls has asked officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to stop the transfer of hundreds of housing units in three city neighborhoods so the community has a chance to purchase and preserve the properties.
Qualls said in a news release issued Tuesday that Downtown Property Management has asked HUD to permit the transfer of 748 units of project-based Section 8 housing in Walnut Hills, Avondale and Millvale to a corporation controlled by the Puretz family of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Qualls called the situation "eerily similar" to a situation that occurred several years ago. In that case, she said, NY Group OH1, LLC bought 618 units of HUD-subsidized rental housing in several neighborhoods across the city. She said in the release that the seller was affiliated with Downtown Property Management.
"This is basically something HUD could stop if it chose to," Qualls said in a phone interview. "An out-of-town investor in control of that many units is very dangerous if that is a bad investor, doesn't maintain the property and is not responsive to the tenants."
Under the NY Group's ownership, the property went from $21.5 million in value to $7 million in value from 2007 to 2010, when it was sold at sheriff's sale because the owner defaulted, the release said. In 2010, Fannie Mae, the lender for the property, filed a foreclosure case.
Qualls said in an interview Tuesday evening that her office had received a response from Carol Galante, HUD's assistant secretary of housing, saying that Galante was "looking into it."
"Preservation of the housing in good condition is vital to the improvement of our neighborhoods," Qualls said in the release. "Our neighborhoods cannot afford to have more blight brought on by an absentee owner. Because these properties are supported by government funding, it is vitally important that HUD get public input from the City of Cincinnati and Avondale, Walnut Hills and Millvale residents and stakeholders about this proposed new transfer of HUD funded properties before making any further decisions."
Downtown Property Management is a Cincinnati-based low-income housing developer. The Ramineni brothers, who could not be immediately reached for comment, own the company.