Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Who writes Tucson's real estate development contracts? Cuz I don't think they know what they are doing (Part 1)

I have lived in Tucson for almost 30 years, and repeatedly, I have seen the City of Tucson-- and the taxpayers-- get screwed on real estate development.

I am not a high-powered lawyer, but I have written and signed a few contracts in my day. My multiple life experiences lead me to ponder one question: Who writes the real estate development contracts for the City of Tucson? Why do I ask? Because-- regardless of the deal-- it seems as if the city (AKA "we") end up with the short straw.

The latest example of this-- the Vista Sierra Apartments in midtown-- was featured in the local section of Sunday's Arizona Daily Star.

The article is a bit confusing about ownership of the now-closed, low-rent apartment complex saying, "For now, at least, Vista Sierra belongs to the Metropolitan Housing Corp., an independent nonprofit created by the city's Metropolitan Housing Commission. It bought the complex in 1996 from the original developer."

So, is this owned by the city or not?

The problem is the Vista Sierra apartments were purchased 14 years ago with the same basic cooling system problem that closed it down this summer.

This is a very expensive problem, since, according to the Star, "The chiller's pipes are in the building's foundation. [yikes!] They're hard to get to, expensive to repair. The fix will cost a million dollars - nearly half what the assessor estimates the place is worth."

When I bought my historic house in 2004, I paid for a home inspection, so I knew-- in great detail-- that I was buying a very cute 1933 house with problems (AKA an adorable, old dump).

Did the city commission a "home inspection" on the Vista Sierra Apartments? If they did, why the heck did they buy it? Really, this sounds like a sweetheart deal for the original developer.

"The [Metropolitan Housing] corporation is almost entirely government dependent, from subsidized rents to federal and local grants, including two recent city grants totaling $133,000. And it's the city - which boarded the windows and helped residents move [emphasis added] - that will probably ride to the rescue to clean up this mess one day. The city is broke, but it's HUD's preferred buyer," the Star reports.

Maybe I'm a dunce, but if the city owns this dump, how can the city be the preferred buyer? This sounds like a scam to me.

This article says that Metropolitan Housing Corp. defaulted on the mortgage for this property, but it also says the apartments are "almost entirely government dependent."

"'We don't have a pot of funds ready to buy this property, so that's clearly a challenge,' said Albert Elias, Tucson's housing and community development director. 'I think the only way that this could work is if we worked in partnership with some other (agencies),'" again quoting the Star.

So, why would we re-buy this dump that we shouldn't have purchased in the first place?

Again, I ask: "Who writes the real estate development contracts for the City of Tucson?"

Watch for more articles in this series...


  1. As a former resident of this property and 33 years in the construction trades before I became injured and unable to work, I can say that the city, or Metropolitan or whoever actually owns this property are liars and thieves. I estimate that brand new Samsung heat pumps, heat and air could have been purchased for for about $1500 per unit including installation totaling $112,500. The $133,000 grants should have covered this.

    They typically employed 7 people for a 2 person job. Metropolitan is obviously in the business of committing fraud and stealing money. The only way residents were able to get in touch with Metropolitan was to contact HUD for a phone number, as they did not want residents to contact them.

    The real kicker in all this ... I vacated my apartment on May 17th. They kept my deposit claiming that they used it for June and July's rent plus late fees when we were told to be out by June 1st, because the Section 8 vouchers expired in 30 days. We received the vouchers the last Thursday in April of 2010. They did not provide us with our moving money till after we had relocated. Most of us were forced to sell personal belongings, pawn items and borrow money from family and friends. We were not helped at all, frankly.

    I hope this brings light into the shady dealings of Metropolitan and Yvonne Romero Harris (who has a husband or a personal friend acting as the attorney for Metropolitan housing and issued eviction notices over $8 that somehow turned into to $270 after late fees and administrative fees. It was odd how these always happened in either July or December when they would pull inspection and back bill us for "repairs" that in most apartments are dealt with when the tenant moves out.


  2. Also to add, they were able to pass inspections because THEY did the inspections, Yvonne and Ginger. Even when residents had no heating or cooling, or leaking facets, non stop running toilet tanks and no kitchen cabinets, they gave the inspections and OK so they could keep receiving the HUD money. I'm sorry, but that is FRAUD!

  3. Thanks for the background, anonymous! Fraud-- I agree.

  4. That's too bad.. Thanks for this info..

  5. Fraud of HUD funds should be reported to the HUD Inspector General's Hotline call us toll-free at - 1-800-347-3735
    Its your Civic Duty and it is confidential

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