|By G. Michael Dobbs
The Hill Homes complex on Hickory Street has not only remained damaged from the June 1, 2011 tornado, but has been vandalized as well.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD State Rep. Benjamin Swan and City Councilor Bud Williams said while touring the Hill Homes Cooperative on Hickory Street they would enlist the aid of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Gov. Deval Patrick and Congressman Richard Neal in preventing the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from foreclosing on the apartment complex severely damaged by the tornado on June 1, 2011.
"HUD has some responsibility, the city has some responsibility and the tenants have some responsibility," Williams said of the situation on April 1.
Of the 39 units, 26 have been condemned, Geraldine McCafferty, director of the Office of Housing, said.
Tenants had previously told Williams that the board of directors of the cooperative was not representing the wishes of the remaining tenants and the former tenants. Marilyn Byrant, president of the board, said the group is now "united as one to see what we can get HUD to do."
Swan said HUD recommended the management company for the housing complex, a management group that Swan asserted on the tour didn't bother to secure the damaged buildings from the elements or vandals. Looking inside one apartment one could see how vandals searching for copper pipe had smashed their way through walls and windows.
Vickie Washington, a tenant for more than 30 years, charged that Springfield College, whose campus borders Hill Homes, wants the property.
"HUD and other parties have been working together to expedite a foreclosure process from 180 to 30 days and demolish the Hickory Street property, so Springfield College can acquire Hill Homes, which has been of interest to them for many years," Washington said.
Washington continued, "Their agenda, of a political and financial nature, would result in a tremendous gain for the parties involved and a great loss to the resident shareholders. They took advantage of a situation, which was the natural disaster of a tornado, to carry out a plan that involved calculated and underhanded tactics to strip residents of their rights and remove them from their property."
Stephen Roulier, director of Marketing and Communications at Springfield College told Reminder Publications, "The college is interested in the property, but that is all we can say at this time."
Bryant said the residents who are living at Hill Homes when the complex is fully paid for in 2015, would own their apartments. Many of the people who lived there prior to the storm had been there between 25 and 30 years, she added.
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