WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Concerns about the future of the Market North Apartments, a subsidized, low-income housing community in Wilmington, are growing despite claims from property management that repair work is taking place.
Following Hurricane Florence, more than 700 residents were forced to move out due to storm-related damages.
In January, WECT contacted Market North property managers for more information. Jake Dumas, a representative with Axio Management Strategies, sent the following statement via email:
“We are continuing to work here at Market North to repair the damage to the property inflicted by Hurricane Florence and get our residents moved back into their original homes as soon as possible. We are in constant communication with our funding partners and are working alongside all of the parties involved with this process to ensure that the necessary repairs are completed in a timely manner while maintaining the highest standard of safety at the property. This has been a difficult time for all of us in the Wilmington area, and we do not take lightly the impact that this process has had on our residents. We want them moved back into their original homes just as much as they do.”
At that time, no permits had been filed with New Hanover County to do any type of repair work.
Three months later, New Hanover County public records still show no active permits for repair work at Market North.
WECT reached out to Dumas again asking for more details about what work has been done to repair the property.
Our inquiry was answered by Brandon Moody, who wrote, “Jake Dumas sent me your contact info. I help out Market North and their parent companies with communications.”
The email was sent through a Gmail account, and Moody has yet to answer what company he works for.
When asked about the status of repair work at Market North, Moody sent the following statement:
“We are 100% committed to the preservation of Market North as a Section 8 housing project. Once the repairs are complete, Market North will continue to function the same as it did before Hurricane Florence - only better. We, too, are concerned about the displacement of vulnerable residents at Market North. That’s why we are working to complete the repairs as soon as possible without compromising the safety of the property.”
But, according to county records and after a glimpse during a drive by the property, no work has been done since we were told in January that property management was “continuing to work here at Market North to repair the damage to the property inflicted by Hurricane Florence.”
When pressed for more information, Moody wrote:
“These delays have been frustrating to everyone - and they are largely due to a fight with our insurance company over the renovations. We continue to work with them daily to get a resolution.”
Former residents and advocates for affordable housing in Wilmington are concerned the property will be sold and re-developed into luxury apartments. In recent years, the area surrounding Market North has been re-developed into multiple luxury apartment complexes.
“I’ve heard the rumors that the luxury apartments that surround it have made offers to the owner of the Market North Property," said Annie Anthony, director of the Cape Fear Volunteer Center. "I have not heard that he has accepted them. I have also heard the fact that they’re repairing the homes and indicating to residents that they should come and sign the lease and they’ll be coming back soon. I’ve driven through there, I drive through there at least once or twice a week and there’s absolutely no movement whatsoever.”
WECT reached out to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) about the property in February. A representative responded via email saying:
“HUD understands that the owner is currently in the process of remediation and working with their insurance company on the insurance claim. Based on the current situation, they expect the remediation and repairs to take at least 6 to 7 months before they receive a certificate of occupancy for the first building. Based on their discussions with the City, each building will receive a separate certificate of occupancy as repairs are completed at each building.”
Anhony said the fact that all HUD housing in Wilmington is privately owned makes things more difficult.
“We have no leverage to make the owner not want to sell," Anthony said. "If it’s lucrative for them, they’re going to take this opportunity. It’s almost like it’s a season of opportunity for many of the low income owners, and it’s sad.”
Tax records from 2018 show the Avalon Apartment property located next to Market North is assessed at more than $24 million.
Anthony said many residents are still displaced and running out of options.
“They’re frustrated and they’re confused," Anthony said. "We’ve had some say, ‘Well, if they’re not going to open back up, why are they wanting us to sign a lease?’ and my advice for them would be to wait and not necessarily sign something, to talk to the Wilmington Housing Authority first.”
Dumas and Moody have yet to respond to inquiries regarding details of repair work.