WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Scott Langan, Principal/Director of Development for Vitus Group, a housing real estate developer, confirmed Monday the company closed on its purchase of the hurricane battered Market North apartments.
Stephen White, President and CEO of Vitus Group, talked with WECT via Skype Tuesday explaining the future of the property and what former residents can expect.
“We closed on that property yesterday and we’re very happy about that. It’s sort of a long closing because it’s such a complicated purchase. The history on this was that the property suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Florence last September. Unlike many of the projects that we’re involved in, this one is completely vacant. The residents had to move out. They’re staying with family and friends right now and it’s not that good of a situation,” White said.
White said renovation work will begin on August 5, and be completed by March. The buildings will be completely gutted and renovated. Outside repairs will also be made, including replacing the roofs of each unit. Renovations are expected to cost around $15.4 million.
“As you may know, there’s a lot of buildings on site. There’s 38 buildings, 204 units so we’ll be completing this in phases. But the first batch of buildings will be complete in October of this year and after that, in several phases until next March. The first group of residents should be able to move back into their units in October of this year,” White said.
White guaranteed that the Market North Community will remain Section 8 housing.
“Our mission is to acquire, reserve, and improve existing affordable housing and to extend the affordability of that for a good many years into the future. That’s really all that we do. So, acquiring an existing property like this and turning it into luxury market rent housing isn’t in the cards for us. We’re well known all across the country for doing this and that’s one of the reasons we were fortunate enough to be shown this opportunity,” he said.
Former residents will have the opportunity to move back into their former unit before remaining units are opened up to other low income residents.
“The HUD contract requires if there’s someone who moves out of the property we find someone whose income qualifies to move into the property and that person pay no more than 30 percent of their income in rent. That HUD process is well documented and we’ll follow the HUD process to make sure all the residents in this property are the ones who truly need housing and it’s reserved for those who need that affordability,” said White.
Months of uncertainty and misinformation by the former owner left many residents to fear the land would be sold and redeveloped into luxury apartments. White said he hopes their actions and work will be able to earn back the confidence of their residents.
“Trust is something that’s earned and it’s very fragile and it just starts by doing the right thing from the very start and not slipping up on any of that...Everything is going to be done to the complete satisfaction of all parties involved and there’s a great number of people on this team making sure that happens.”
Vitus Group is one of the largest affordable housing developers in the country, owning over 12,000 affordable housing units in more than 25 states.
White said they will own the property for 10-15 years to ensure it is well maintained and operated.