The owner of several affordable housing properties in Kansas City, Mo., has filed a federal fair housing complaint against the city and others alleging intentional discrimination against African-American residents.
The Eagle Point Cos. claims the city “engaged in overt and discriminatory conduct with the intent to eliminate affordable housing” owned by the firm and to evict residents of Bainbridge Apartments, Georgian Court, and Linda Vista Apartments.
The firm alleges the city has “waged a campaign of political influence and deception to force the low-income African-American residents out of the Hyde Park neighborhood by, among other actions, employing a novel and flawed ‘social liability’ theory to pursue eminent domain to condemn the properties despite the well-known and acknowledged fact that the properties are in ‘excellent condition’ and well-managed.”
The move comes after a city report pointed a finger at the affordable housing properties for “social blight” related to a high level of crime. The owner and residents fear the unusual finding opens the door for the city to seize the buildings through eminent domain.
Eagle Point officials vigorously defend their properties, saying the firm has made a major investment in redeveloping and rehabilitating the Armour Boulevard community, investing $61 million in its three properties between 2006 and 2008. The properties were designated as subsidized affordable housing with Sec. 8 assistance when Eagle Point acquired them and, by HUD rule, are required to remain Sec. 8 through 2029.
The firm reports investing $31 million in renovation and won three different Missouri and national redevelopment and preservation awards for their work in 2008 and 2009.
“Eagle Point believes in affordable housing,” says CEO Laura Burns, a member of Affordable Housing Finance’s Editorial Advisory Board, in a statement. “We have made it clear that we would take whatever actions were necessary to prevent our residents from being evicted for no reason and with no place to go...We fully intend to use every legal measure available to defend our residents going forward. This is a very unfortunate waste of private and public time and resources that could have been put to much better use assisting Eagle Point in continuing to improve the Armour community and Hyde Park neighborhood.”
Her firm alleges there’s been a concerted effort by the respondents to shut down the properties because of their perception that “there are too many African-Americans living in the subject properties in Hyde Park.”
Eagle Point is represented by attorney Scott P. Moore of the Baird Holm law firm in Omaha, Neb., a former senior trial attorney with the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. It has also obtained local representation from attorney Robert A. Henderson of Polsinelli.
In addition to the city, the complaint names several other respondents, including Councilman James Glover III; Planned Industrial Expansion Authority (PIEA); Al Figuly, former executive director of PIEA; and Peter Cassel, a representative of Antheus Capital, MAC Property Management, and Silliman Group.
Connect with Donna Kimura, deputy editor of Affordable Housing Finance, on Twitter @DKimura_AHF.