The troubled Barbour Garden Apartment complex in Hartford may soon have a new owner.
David McCarthy, president of Heritage Housing Inc. out of Norwalk, says he has signed a purchase agreement with the current owner, Martin Rothman of Adar Hartford Reality, LLC. McCarthy said the sale of the apartment complex is contingent on a new HUD contract.
Rothman’s been accused of pocketing the money instead of making badly needed repairs. When a HUD inspection garnered a nine out 100 for the property, HUD pulled Rothman’s contract.
Since then, the property has fallen into further disrepair. There’s even a warrant out for Rothman’s arrest, due to fire code violations. He’s failed to show up to court twice.
Mice, mold, sewage backups, and crumbling ceilings are just some of the problems that have plagued the property.
“To some extent our mission is to improve these kinds of properties,” said McCarthy. “You want to be part of the solution. You want to help.”
Heritage Housing, Inc, is a for-profit company. McCarthy admits there’s money to be made. However, he plans to turn only half of the units into Section 8 housing. So, he’d get less federal funding overall than Rothman received.
However, he expects to get more per unit to reflect the renovations he’ll make. He says he expects to receive between $900-$1,000 per unit per month, or about $40,000 per month and $480,000 per year. McCarthy plans to turn the other half of the units into affordable, income-based housing.
“We see it also as just an opportunity to turn this property around and make it habitable and livable again,” he said.
McCarthy’s referring to the major investment he has planned.
“We’re budgeting $7 million for repairs on the property, which is about $85,000 a unit,” he explained. “We would completely rebuild the bathrooms, the kitchens.”
He’s planning a top to bottom rehab, from the plumbing to the heating and even the entrances to the buildings. If the sale goes through, he’ll start the renovations next summer and hopes to have the buildings ready for new tenants by fall of 2021.
Current tenants say those repairs are badly needed.
“I’m ready to move. I’m ready to move. I’m tired, I’m tired, I’m tired,” said Yolanda Alexander.
Residents were given vouchers for a new place to live. To date, 43 of 69 families have been relocated, according to HUD. The rest have until September 30th to find a new place to live.
“I’m the only one in my building. Everybody else is gone,” she said.
When we met Alexander, her kitchen sink was backing up into her bathroom.
“I’m going to be here another two weeks with a clogged sink, with mold in my bathroom. So, at this point I’m fed up. I want to move,” said an exasperated Alexander.
Alexander expressed frustration and disappointment in the relocation process saying the one apartment HUD matched her with didn’t feel safe.
“We were told that we should not take anything that we was not comfortable with and we would not be happy with,” Alexander said of the outside contractor HUD is using to help move tenants to new apartments. “I didn’t take an apartment and now I feel like I’m being blackballed for not taking the apartment.”
She added that she’s been rejected from every apartment she’s expressed interested due to her lack of credit.
“I think they have rich people policies for low income areas,” said Alexander. “That leaves a lot of people out, out of the game.”
Barbour Gardens is the latest in a string of Hartford properties with landlords who have come under fire for not fulfilling their responsibilities to the tenants. State representative Brandon McGee says tenants wouldn’t be in this situation if municipalities had had more control over out of state landlords.
“This guy is responsible for millions of dollars that are not actually going to the place or being used for what its’ intended purpose is which is to make sure these units are quality units for residents to live in,” McGee said, referring to Rothman. “He just basically abused the resources, the process, and the money.”
McGee fought to close such loopholes during the past legislative session, sponsoring a bill that requires cities and towns to create a landlord registry. Harford is currently updating their housing code to comply with the law that was signed by Governor Ned Lamont in July.
“We can go directly to the source. We can fine violations up to about $1,000,” said McGee.
McGee believes the new law will create more accountability among property owners, particularly those who live out of state, like Rothman.
“It took almost like years to get to him. We knew the person but there wasn’t a process in place or enough teeth on the local side of things for the municipality to say you know what we ought to hold you responsible. We don’t even have to go to court for this,” McGee explained.
Alexander hopes the new law gives cities like Hartford more oversight.
“I think they really need to know who they’re dealing with. When you let somebody in your house, it’s in your city, and buying a property within Connecticut or Hartford you need to know who you’re dealing with,” she said.
NBC Connecticut reached out to Rothman’s attorney for comment but did not hear back.