Greensboro City Council Approves Money For Displaced Apartment Tenants

Greensboro City Council Approves Money For Displaced Apartment Tenants

9:00am Aug 24, 2018
The Summit Avenue Apartment unit where five children died in a fire. The City of Greensboro approved $45,000 to assist local residents who are displaced after the property was condemned earlier this month. DAVID FORD/WFDD

This week, the Greensboro City Council approved $45,000 to assist local residents forced to leave their recently condemned apartments. In May, five refugee children died in a fire at the 3100 Summit Avenue location, renewing discussions about living conditions and code violations at the complex.

The city’s Community Foundation and Housing Coalition are combining forces to assist individuals and families there with costs associated with moving. Each family will receive about $1,500 to cover one-time expenses, like the first month’s rent.

But even with the fund in place, the displaced residents, many of whom are African refugees, face an uphill battle. The city’s lack of affordable housing units means that finding new homes for the roughly 200 residents ahead of the mid-September deadline presents enormous challenges for local agencies as well.

Greensboro Housing Coalition Director Brett Byerly spoke with WFDD's David Ford.

Interview Highlights

On the challenges refugees face in finding affordable housing:

Well, it's extremely hard for this group of folks to be able to find housing in the market that we're in right now. They already face a lot of challenges based on English proficiency, and having probably never having gone out and had to rent a place on their own and speak to a landlord and find a place and negotiate, understand a lease, get there to be able to even view the places. Their challenges are really, really immense in just about every facet.

On the role Greensboro Housing Coalition plays in this transition:

So, we're a housing counseling agency, and we've also done relocation services like we've been doing with tornado victims and other folks that have been condemned out of their properties in the past. It's a very difficult process for anyone—English-speaking or not—to work through to be able to find a place because of the challenges of the supply of [available] units. They probably need units below $800 dollars [a month]. So, our role is we meet with the individuals living in the apartments, usually coordinate an interpreter to be there because many of the folks out there don't speak English. We qualify them based on living there, and then we send them out into the world to find housing. We provide them with lists that we pull off of Social Serve and other Internet sources—kind of like want ads, I guess—so that they'll be able to have a basis for places to look at. And then when they find a place they come back to us with a form that says, “I, John Doe, have been accepted to such and such apartments. And the first month's rent is $700 and the security deposit is $700,” and then we began processing those payments. We inspect the units. That's a big priority. We wouldn't want to be moving residents out of a substandard house and into another substandard house. So, there's an inspection process that happens where we go and look at the unit and make sure that it meets habitability standards before any checks are cut to that landlord.

On the additional efforts to find housing for the Summit-Cone tenants:

We are holding a landlord fair this Saturday right across the street from the apartments at Cone and Summit, and I have been flipping over rocks and calling everybody I can in the book to try and get landlords to be there to be able to take applications. We're going to have interpreters for them as well to be able to take applications and hopefully be able to screen and approve some of the people on site. But I'm not having a whole lot of luck with them and landlords that I'm going to be able to get in the room. I'm reaching out personally to landlords and property management companies to try and make this landlord fair event as successful as we can so that people will see that there are some options.

The landlord fair for Summit-Cone Apartment residents facing displacement will be held at Pace of the Triad from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, August 25. Organizers are still looking for landlords and property managers who have available units for rent under $800 a month.  

Editor's Note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Correction: A broadcast version of this story mistakenly referred to where the event is being held as Taste of the Triad. It is at Pace of the Triad. 

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