Updated: Jan 19
On July 29, 2015 the Murfreesboro, Tennessee Daily News Journal published the attached article titled: “Developers seek bonds to renovate 184 apartments.” According to the article, Lewis Diaz, the attorney representing Dominium development and acquisition company stated: “This is a preservation project,” after persuading the Rutherford County Health and Educational Facilities Board to endorse the first of three required government- approved steps to issue tax-exempt bonds to fund the project.
Diaz went on to state: “the bond applicant will be responsible for paying back the loans in seeking affordable “Section 8” housing with the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development subsidizing much of the rent and providing tax credits for the projects.”
The article highlighted that “the project is taking place during a time when the Murfreesboro Housing Authority plans to tear down the older Franklin Heights public housing by December, and some question whether enough affordable housing is available for a fast growing city that reached a U.S. Census estimated population of 117,044 in 2013.”
Attorney Diaz also stated: “Dominium will renovate 184 apartments in Murfreesboro for $19.5 million, and construction will take an estimated 18-24 months once the development company is able to close on financing” and “the project will help the elderly, disabled and others who are struggling to find affordable housing” and “the federal government requires that rent limits be in place for those eligible for Section 8 subsidies, such as being 30 percent of a tenants income, and those residents should not be displaced because of the cost.”
And lastly, after sharing plans of spending $25,000 to $45,000 to renovate each unit, attorney Diaz reassured the public that “all the existing tenants will be provided with housing during the project.”
In spite of everything promised by attorney Diaz, the attached Rutherford County Tennessee general sessions court docket list verifies that hundreds of existing tenants lost their housing including the one tenant who was interviewed for the July 29, 2015 article.
Five-year Kings Crossing resident Carolyn Rankins, a mother of four and grandmother of six, who stated she pays $703 per month “to share a two bedroom apartment with her 15 year old daughter with a bipolar condition.”
In the article, Rankins said she heard that her apartment complex at 1710 E. Northfield Blvd., in Murfreesboro could be improved. “The upgrades would definitely be welcome…I hope they don’t go and boost the rent so high that people can’t afford it…I will start a new job soon…I hope they won’t make it where I can’t afford to stay here.”
On December 15, 2015 less than 5 months after the July 29, 2015 article was published; an Unlawful Detainer Action was filed against Carolyn Rankin and her disabled 15 year old daughter.
None of the existing tenants who were evicted or who were forced to move as a result of the federally funded acquisition and rehabilitation project were provided with any housing relocation services to prevent displacement in spite of receiving $19.5 million dollars in tax- exempt bonds, low-income housing tax credit financing and HUD Section 8 subsidies.
After telling the Daily News Journal on July 29, 2015 that all the existing tenants will be provided with housing during the project and after openly stating under the penalty of perjury that relocation would not be provided to existing tenants in its July 15, 2015 Tax Credit application submitted to Tennessee Housing Development Agency, Dominium has stated that it provided relocation assistance in its other similarly financed projects as verified by the attached application submitted in the State of Georgia.
Receipt of these finances came with the obligation to ensure that the cost of temporary or permanent relocation of existing tenants would be covered to prevent displacement pursuant to local, state and federal relocation and anti-displacement guidelines.
Attached documents shows evidence that existing residents attempted to raise concerns to the local housing authorities, only to be falsely told that they did not qualify for relocation assistance because the project did not use any federal or HUD financial assistance in spite of this article clearly stating that tax-exempt bonds, low-income housing tax credit and HUD Section 8 subsidies would be used to repay the loans and that the existing tenants would be provided with housing during the project.
While residing at the property during the rehabilitation, as a fair housing and disability rights advocate, I filed the attached claims for FHA violations, denied due process, denied disability related reasonable accommodations, denied right to organize and denied claims for relocation assistance against Dominium, the Murfreesboro Housing Authority (MHA), Volunteer Behavioral Health System and the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) with the Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO), the Tennessee Human Rights Commission (THRC) and Tennessee Claims Commission.
As verified by the above mentioned documents, several constitutionally protected rights of the existing residents were violated by the unwarranted evictions and denied relocation assistance.
Immediate attention should be paid to what appears to be a willful and intentional failure to act in the best interest of the residents demonstrated by the individuals and agencies responsible for monitoring compliance of these federally funded acquisition and rehabilitation projects.
There has also been multiple lawsuits filed against Dominium Management Services involving discrimination against elderly and disabled tenants including a recent class action lawsuit filed in Minnesota for tax credit fraud accomplished by charging elderly residents additional parking garage fees as rent.
Dominium’s attempt to apologize to the Plaintiff’s in the class action suit for causing so much chaos surrounding unlawfully charging the elderly tenants for parking included stating something to the effect of “we wouldn’t have these problems if the eviction ban wasn’t in place”. Check out the attached article for the exact quote.
Our governments refusal to intervene in and correct this ongoing pattern of unlawful evictions, malicious prosecutions, denial of due process and equal protection of the law, and the right to Fair Housing and Disability related reasonable accommodations in the form of a right to a Pro Bono or court appointed counsel in eviction cases, reminds me of the attached case involving the State of Tennessee’s treatment of the residents of Arlington Developmental Center.
If the State of Tennessee and other responsible federal administrative agencies continue to ignore the damage Dominium Management Services had caused to hundreds of Tennesseans after being granted $19.5 million dollars in federal financial assistance, a class action case will be initiated by Community Bridges Inc., Tennessee, a local tax-exempt nonprofit organization that has provided Fair Housing & Disability Rights Advocacy services in Tennessee since January 2019.
Any Pro Bono assistance, media attention and/or community support in this matter will be greatly appreciated and welcomed.
"The People's Advocate"