By Nicole Hennessy
The halls of Lakewood’s Westerly Apartments are quiet.
Throughout the three-building senior housing complex’s high-rise portion, Westerly III, wreathes and other personalized decorations that designate the apartments as more than anonymous spaces, but actual homes, hang on the doors.
Some of these residents, though, will have to find new homes soon after the Westerly III begins a $14 million renovation this October.
Funding comes from multiple sources, including a new HUD mortgage and Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) administered by the Internal Revenue Service. The LIHTC credits are different than current HUD regulations that have been in place at the high-rise for the past 39 years.
“New requirements state that the maximum annual income permitted to reside in a LIHTC unit is set at 60% of the Area Median Income,” a press release explains. “Residents with incomes that exceed this limit will no longer be eligible to live at Westerly III.”
That limit – $26,640 for an individual and $30,480 for a couple – means 34 residents will have to relocate.
And while this amounts to less than 7 percent of residents, their displacement has not been taken lightly by administrators like Curt Brosky, president and CEO of Lakewood Senior Citizens Inc., which owns the Westerly.
In Westerly III Apartment 147, which serves as his office, Brosky sits at a table, paper, boxes and binders scattered about the space, a typical one-bedroom apartment.
“A lot of people, and I agree with them, say, ‘Why don’t you change the law?’” he explained.
This is something the administration has looked into, “but we have to be realistic,” Brosky continued. “This law passed 25 years ago. And it hasn’t changed in all these years.”
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, who couldn’t be reached for comment, has been working on the possibility of instating a grandfather clause in current legislation that would allow the displaced residents to stay, but with such a short time frame, this is unlikely.
Of the initial 34 residents affected by the low income designation, several have chosen to move to apartments in the other two buildings within the complex that aren’t affected by the tax credits, as only Westerly III will be renovated. But 15 to 17 people have left or will be leaving. However, they will each receive $1,200 from Lakewood Senior Citizens Inc., which is paying them voluntarily to help with the relocation.
Despite losing residents Brosky counts as friends, “doing nothing is not an option,” he said.
All three of the buildings are approaching 50 years, and the investments will allow for new windows, a fire alarm system, roof, boilers and elevators.
Each unit will also include brand-new walk-in showers, new carpet and wider doorways to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs, as well as updated kitchens.
Also, nine accessible (ADA) units will be added for the mobility-impaired.
“We’re thrilled that we’re going to be able to make so many nice improvements to the building that will allow us to house 179 people for many years to come,” Brosky said.
“And in the meantime we’re gonna work as hard as we can to take care of those folks who are caught having to relocate somewhere else.”