JCDA authorizes rent increase request for Sevier Center; The population will not bear the cost | local news

The Johnson City Development Authority will seek a “market margin” for raising rents at the John Sevier Center after it passed a major inspection hurdle last week, although residents won’t see their monthly payments rise.

While rents will rise significantly, the increase will not negatively affect the building’s 150 residents supported by Section VIII. Instead, the subsidy payments from the public housing agency that provides them with rent assistance will increase. JCDA plans to use a portion of the additional $800,000 in funding each year to provide free laundry access, Internet and cable service at the Sevier Center.

Rents at the center have not been increased since 2014, as the building needed to pass a HUD property appraisal check first.

Prior to passing this month’s examination with a score of 69, Sevier had not passed any inspections since 2012. It failed inspections in 2015 and 2017 with a score of 47 and 46, respectively.

“If we get this approval, which is another important step in the process, we will begin to get a much clearer picture of how to properly support and operate John Sevier,” said JCDA Chairman Hank Carr.

Currently, JCDA receives approximately $1.07 million per year from rent at Sevier Center, which charges $540 per month for a studio apartment or $635 per month for a one-bedroom apartment.

A wanted rent comparison study found market rates as high as $990 per month for a studio or $1,075 for a one-bedroom apartment.

There were five nearby apartment complexes used to set the market price: Summer Chase Apartments, Yellow Door Apartments, Buffalo Ridge Apartments, Sterling Hills, and The Haven at Knob Creek. According to online listings, the rent in those apartments for a studio or one-bedroom apartment ranges from about $800 per month to more than $1,000 per month.

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“It’s not what people in John Sevier who receive a benefit or use a Section 8 coupon will be paying, it’s what the market is bearing at the moment,” said Patricia Oldham, director of the JCDA.

While the JCDA has noted for several months that the increase will not affect residents, those who live in the building were surprised last week when they first saw how much of the increase could be on a flyer on their doors that did not make it clear that it would not affect them. A follow-up letter was sent out this week, and a representative from LHP Capital – the company that operates the Sevier Center – apologized for the confusion caused by the letter last week.

“We apologize for that, but I think you’ll see going forward and we’ll be more proactive in our outreach to residents,” said Alvin Nance, chief development officer at LHP.

The JCDA hopes HUD will approve the new contract in time for it to go into effect on August 1. However, this increase in payments will be retroactive, so if HUD does not agree to the contract until October, the JCDA will still receive additional funds for August and September.

With the proposed increase, JCDA would raise $1.87 million annually — an increase of $560,799, or $66,630 per month.

In March, the city entered into a development agreement with LHP to build 145 replacement housing units for residents of Sevier Center, which officials expect to open at 2162 S. Roan St.

The Johnson City Regional Planning Commission recently recommended that the site be redistricted from a planned arterial works area to a planned residential area. This repartition request must appear before the city commission three times.

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