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‘This is a big deal for us,’ Leaders react to sale of Wilmington supportive housing development

Updated: May. 5, 2021 at 6:26 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The news that residents were being asked to leave their long-time home at Driftwood Apartments came as a surprise.

In January, the company managing the units announced the supportive housing property was being sold, pushing 15 chronically homeless or disabled people out of their homes, distressing everyone from nonprofits to Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo.

“This is a big deal for us and a big deal for community. I heard from a lot of citizens out there that were really upset,” said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo.

Concerns about how the residents were asked to leave even grabbed the attention of the federal government.

“I believe that the allegation that it was improperly done is just wrong,” said the development’s owner, Jim Anthony, CEO of APG. “There’s a lot of, in my opinion, unnecessary alarm bells that were sounded because we really were doing things the proper way, in compassionately relocating people, from a property that needed to be heavily renovated, to properties that were more suitable and ready to live in.”

Weeks after HUD halted the property’s sale and the removal of the remaining residents, a buyer stepped forward.

“I didn’t get new specific updates from HUD per se but I feel like we played a role in slowing the process down,” Mayor Saffo said of the city’s intervention into the sale.

The new owners, Cape Fear Collective, plan to keep the units affordable and have agreed to allow the two remaining residents to stay.

The former owner says Driftwood is on good terms with state and federal leaders and they’re just waiting now for transfer approvals to cement the deal.

“I really feel blessed that we found a great partner to sell to in the Cape Fear Collective,” explained Anthony.

It’s a sentiment shared by Mayor Saffo, who’s thankful stakeholders outside of government stepped in to keep the valuable community asset open to serve the people who need it most.

“When you see the private sector step up the way they did in this particular endeavor, I think it demonstrates other people out there in this community — that there are individuals out there that care about this issue enough that they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is,” said Saffo.

WECT reached out to HUD about the status of its investigation into the pending sale of Driftwood. In response to a media inquiry, a spokesperson confirmed the agency continues to look into the matter and “takes the pending sale of Driftwood Apartments very seriously.”

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