Hazelwood Affordable Rental Preservation Project
Credit: Keith Robinson
You can’t walk past too many front porches in Hazelwood without hearing someone talk about getting a postcard from an out-of-town flipper offering to buy their home. The conversation turns to speculation about what the future of Hazelwood’s housing will be….Will it get snatched up? Will prices go up? Will the people who live here be able to stay?
Hazelwood Initiative understands the concern and has decided to do something about it.
Last fall, HI announced to the community that it had come to an agreement with Dave Cunningham, Hazelwood’s largest landlord, to purchase 63 units of rental housing over a three-year period to preserve and improve them as permanently affordable rental housing.
On March 31, 2020, the first big step was taken on this journey when the first 22 units were sold from Mr. Cunningham to an LLC solely-owned by HI: HARPP, LLC. “HARPP” stands for Hazelwood Affordable Rental Preservation Project.”
This was the single largest investment HI has ever made into its community, as an expression of its commitment to “Development without Displacement,” one of the highest priorities in the recently approved Greater Hazelwood Neighborhood Plan.
According to HI Board President Jourdan Hicks, “The Board knows that residents and our membership fear displacing residents who need quality, inexpensive, and safe housing in our community. We purchased these units to make sure—for ourselves—affordable units are available here now. Especially with what Hazelwood Green's business economy is projected to become, and its relationship to our housing market. It's a huge undertaking and serious responsibility. We know. But we feel it's worth every challenge, to make sure any low-wealth person can stay in or move to Hazelwood.”
So now that we have purchased the first 22 units, the hard work is just beginning. Hazelwood Initiative is working right now on many fronts:
Putting together a responsive property management system for the first 22 units;
Planning and renovating the five units that are currently vacant so we can make them available to low-income Hazelwood residents on Section 8;
Making the most repairs on the units with the greatest need;
Raising the funds for the remaining 41 units to be purchased;
Reaching out to existing residents to assess how they are holding up under the COVID-19 “shelter at home” order from the governor;
Filling out countless forms and reports to be accountable to our funders and to make sure we are doing our best to take good care of the houses and the families who live in them.
For the families who live in these houses, very little has changed. Their rent is the same and Dave Cunningham continues to manage the apartments for Hazelwood Initiative. He will continue to do so until all 63 units have changed hands (in about two years).
But one big thing has changed: The people who live in these units do not have to worry about some out-of-town flipper coming in and raising their rents. This is a first giant step toward making that dream come true for more and more low-income Hazelwood renters.