St. Croix Apartments Loses HUD Contract, Owner Calls It A Conspiracy

By Amy Jeanroy

Residents at St. Croix Apartments have until March 1, 2016 to find alternative subsidized housing. They received a letter stating that HUD had terminated the  contract between the owner of the building, Aaron Gleich of New York, NY, and the department, citing “unresolved health and safety issues at the property.” One of those issues is the elevator that has had a  suspension notice on it since September of last year, but residents say it had been broken for months prior to that. 

Another health and safety issue involves the wiring to the alarm. Repeated false alarms had residents ignoring the sound and remaining in their apartments. The wiring also made it difficult for first responders to find where the potential issue was coming from, since the alarm system was not triggering accurately. 

The building has failed  HUD physical inspections three times prior to the current notice, says HUD representative, Rhonda Siciliano. According to Siciliano, HUD inspections occurred on 8/22/2014, 2/18/2015 and 8/12/2015 and the building’s Real Estate Assessment Center score (REAC) was less than 60 each time.  HUD is required to follow certain protocol when a project receives a below 60 inspection. Currently,  St. Croix Apartments has a 56. The protocol (Notice H 2015-02) states: When a project “receives a REAC score between 31 and 59: and the owner “fails to certify in writing that all deficiencies have been corrected” or “when a project receives a REAC score between 31 and 59 and “receives consecutive scores of less than 60 on REAC inspections.” that it is a trigger for action. If this is the case, then HUD must notify the owner and provide an opportunity for a response within 30 days. If the owner does not submit an appeal then the department will move develop a compliance, disposition and enforcement plan within 60 days with a specified timetable for correcting all deficiencies. 

The Calais Advertiser contacted Mr. Gleich to ask about the situation. Gleich stated that the problem stemmed from his being from “away,” and that he had been trying to resolve these issues for some time. 

“It is painful to me not to have the elevator.” He says of the suspension notice on the elevator. 

“I have been asking to get back the estimate as to what it would take to make the wiring right, and have been getting the run around.”

Gleich stated that he had been trying to get a local lawyer and that did not work, so he lost a lot of time. Now that he has a firm in Maine handling the situation, Gleich feels that the problems will be fixed and that HUD will reinstate his contract with them. 

If Gleich’s contract with HUD is not reinstated, HUD says they will provide relocation assistance to all eligible tenants according to Siciliano. 

“HUD is already working with Maine State Housing Authority and our other partners to assist in identifying housing for these residents. Maine State Housing Authority, who will administer the Tenant Protection Vouchers, has already begun compiling a list of landlords in the area, as well as HUD-assisted and U.S. Department of Agriculture/Rural Development-assisted housing developments. The residents will also have the ability to take their vouchers outside of Calais.” 

It will have to be outside Calais for many of the residents, according to Jim Porter, City Manager, who says that there is not enough Section 8 housing in the city to accommodate the displaced tenants.  

Despite what people may think, says owner Aaron Gleich, he is trying to make things right. 

“I have had the project in Calais for 35 years. They would like to portray me as some kind of ogre but I have spared no money on all my projects. I have one in Dover Foxcroft that has gotten a 91 rating every time HUD comes to inspect.” 

 

Meanwhile, Gleich, who has had the contract since March 23, 1979, will not be responsible for repayment of the subsidy that has paid by HUD, but according to Siciliano, in response to the third consecutive inspection that scored below 60, HUD issued a Pre-Penalty Notice for Civil Monetary Penalty on September 21, 2015.