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Seniors concerned with housing at Charles Town complex

April 17, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Breaking into tears, Cassie Barrow told Charles Town Council members Tuesday night she does not know what she will do if owners of the apartment complex where she and many other senior citizens live increases the rent by more than $150 a month.

The Washington Village Apartment building at 514 S. George St. was built with U.S. Department of Agriculture funds, a funding program which also required that rent be kept low for residents there, said Charles Town City Council member Matt Ward.

But under the terms of the agreement, the owner of the complex can buy out remaining U.S.D.A. loan after 20 years, which frees the owner of rent rate requirements, Ward said.

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Gantt Miller, owner of Washington Village Apartments, has decided to buy out his U.S.D.A. loan and increase rent to residents from $280 to $440 a month, Ward said.

Washington Village residents living on fixed incomes of $600 and less wonder where they will turn if the buy out is accepted by the U.S.D.A., Barrow said.

Barrow told council members it's not fair to ask Washington Village residents to move because they are too old.

"This is not right. And I'm downright mad. And you don't want to get me mad," said Barrow.

Barrow began crying as she related her worries to council members. She said she hoped to enjoy the golden years as she grew older.

"I found out the golden years aren't golden at all," said Barrow.

Council members are encouraging Washington Village residents to contact U.S.D.A. officials and let them know how they feel.

If U.S.D.A. officials decide that Washington Village residents would be hurt by the loan buy-out, agency officials will try to reach an agreement with the owner to keep the apartments available to residents there, council members said.

Also, U.S.D.A. officials can offer incentives to Miller to keep the loan, according to council members.

Miller was not at the council meeting and could not be reached for comment afterward.

Mayor Randy Hilton said he sympathizes with Washington Village residents, but said he wants to be careful that he doesn't give them a "false hope" that the situation will be changed to help them remain there.

Council member Geraldine Willingham said she believes the issue exposes a "weak link" in the city when it comes to affordable housing.

The city is facing increasing requests to annex new communities into the city, but no one wants to talk about offering affordable housing in the areas, said Willingham.

Willingham said she would support a policy that requires a certain number of affordable housing units be built in new developments.

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