Light Rail: City-rehabbed apartments almost ready for move-in

by Sadie Jo Smokey – Apr. 17, 2011
The Arizona Republic

City bought apartments in 2009; buildings renovated

Residents may begin moving into five blocks of affordable housing in north-central Phoenix by the end of May.

The two-story brick buildings at Park Lee Apartments have fresh paint and new carpeting and appliances. The community clubhouse and three pools look new and sparkling.

In December 2009, Phoenix used federal funds to buy the apartments, 1600 W. Highland Ave., to provide stability and affordable-housing options near the light-rail line. Park Lee is closest to the stop at Camelback Road and 19th Avenue.

Tom Elgin, who lives in the Grandview Neighborhood east of the 523-unit community, said he’s extremely happy with the city’s effort to clean up the blighted area.

“The police used to be there a lot,” Elgin said. “Drugs, graffiti . . . was a real problem. I’d paint over graffiti every weekend. All of that has basically gone away.”

Kim Dorney, Phoenix Housing Department director, said the city paid about $5.2 million to buy the community, built in 1955. It consists of 34 buildings and sits on nearly 32 acres.

Councilman Tom Simplot, who represents the area, told residents at a neighborhood meeting that city staff uncovered extensive water damage and vandalism in the multifamily community. Some units required extensive electrical repairs and upgrades.

Angela Duncan, deputy housing director, said the city budgeted $5.36 million to rehabilitate the community in phases. Approximately 160 apartments will be available to rent by the end of May.

Chain-link fencing surrounds the community to deter criminal activity. In July 2010, juvenile-arson-caused fires destroyed 12 units. Insurance proceeds will be used to rebuild the fire-damaged homes, including transforming six apartments into handicapped-accessible units.

“Units are being leased as work is completed,” Dorney said. “Fencing will come down when apartments are leased.”

Federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding requires Phoenix to set aside affordable housing for a percentage of qualified renters. Duncan said approximately 75 percent of Park Lee will have affordable rents. The city defines affordable housing as housing provided to those who earn 40 to 60 percent of the adjusted area median income, or $26,650 to $39,960, for a family of four.

The homes, one- and two-bedroom apartments and two-bedroom cottages, are priced at $275 to $575 a month.

The city will host an affordable-housing gathering 8-10 a.m. May 14.

Information: 602-264-1195.
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