BY GINNIE GRAHAM & CURTIS KILLMAN World Staff Writers
Sunday, June 06, 2010
6/06/10 at 5:14 AM
'Never had a problem'
THA shakeup in late '80s brought reforms
A new website has been launched to help renters find available housing. Properties
have a range of rent prices, and a search can be narrowed by a variety of criteria,
including whether owners accept Section 8 vouchers. The site is sponsored by the
city of Tulsa, Tulsa Housing Authority and Community Action Project of Tulsa County.
Editor’s Note: The
Tulsa World began the
examination of Tulsa
Section 8 program
with a request for information
on Oct. 22,
2009. The request for
addresses was denied
seven days later. After
THA released the
addresses to the Tulsa
World on Jan. 20. A
letter was sent notifying
Section 8 property
owners of the request
on Jan. 15.
For 79-year-old Juanita Austin, having a Section 8 voucher means she can still afford to live in her home independently.
From her manicured and fenced lawn on the 800 block of East 52nd Street North, she points to homes surrounding her property with plywood over windows, tarps over roofs and cars parked in front yards.
"You see some of those boarded up across the street, and this one next door doesn't mow the yard," Austin said.
That house next door, with "Blood" as graffiti on the side fence and weeds growing to mid-calf, did have a Section 8 tenant in December. By April, it was vacant and overgrown.
"If you're Section 8, you have to fix it up a little," she said.
Regulations set by the U.S. Housing and Development Agency address the condition of the home, which taxpayers subsidize a portion of the rent for low-income families and individuals.
However, nothing requires the Tulsa Housing Authority, which administers the program, to do background checks on code violations, taxes owed on the property or the criminal backgrounds of the owners.
The Section 8 program is funded by HUD through housing authorities to provide voucher subsidies to low-income individuals and families for use at any approved rental property.
In Tulsa, more than 400 code violations, or about 3 percent of the total citywide, were issued in 2009 to homes receiving a voucher at some point last year, and more than $300,000 is owed in property taxes on homes receiving Section 8 subsidies, according to a Tulsa World investigation.
HUD requirements on a home's condition apply once a tenant and owner come to an agreement on a lease. The home must pass an initial inspection for move-in and a yearly inspection.
The property owners' maintenance and code problems in between having tenants are not considered in approving the lease.
The 412 violations occurred at 265 properties, with 71 of those sites receiving at least two notices of violations in 2009.
Of the 1,300 owners accepting a Section 8 voucher, Steve Pharris had the most code violations, with 18 citations last year.
Most of those violations involved overgrown yards or tenants parking vehicles in the yard close to their home, which is sometimes done out of fear of burglary, Pharris said.
Pharris said he will notify residents that it is illegal to park a vehicle in the front yard.
"Most of them are pretty congenial and they take care of the problem," Pharris said. "If we get any violations, we take care of them within two days."
Pharris owns at least 88 properties with a Section 8 tenant, ranking him No. 1 among single-family properties on the program, according to an analysis Tulsa Housing Authority records.
Fifteen of Pharris' properties were sent code violation notices last year, city records show. Three properties were cited twice.
Pharris said lawns are a big source of complaints. According to HUD regulations, Section 8 tenants are responsible for yard upkeep, unless a stipulation is made in the lease agreement.
"If the tenants can't afford to do it, usually we'll send a lawn crew out there and take care of them," Pharris said.
Pharris said the HUD regulations keep Section 8 properties from going into disrepair.
"They have a very high-quality standard," Pharris said. "A lot of landlords won't rent to them because their standards are so high."
The top recipient of Section 8 HUD funding is RemyCo, which received about $1.18 million last year for its low-income tenants.
The Tulsa-based company is embroiled in a lawsuit, in which a Delaware entity claims it was forced to file bankruptcy because RemyCo did not reveal it sold eight apartment complexes with mortgages in default.
RC Sooner Holdings LLC bought the properties.
Fannie Mae, a government-sponsored lender, filed eight lawsuits in Tulsa County against RemyCo officials and the legal entities they created to own the apartments, seeking repayment of the $28.58 million remaining balance on eight loans. The agency claims RemyCo is in break of the loan contracts for selling the apartments without its knowledge.
The most cited home for code violations among the units receiving a Section 8 subsidy last year was on the 4300 block of North Kenosha Avenue, with six notices, the Tulsa World analysis shows.
Results Homebuyers LLC of Owasso is the current owner and ranked fourth among Section 8 owners in 2009 with code enforcement violations with seven total. The company had another property on the 4900 block of North St. Louis Avenue receive one citation in 2009.
Drew Hall, Results Homebuyers manager, said two of the code violations occurred while he was attempting to purchase the property located in the Suburban Acres neighborhood.
"For some reason it didn't get taken care of before I purchased the property," Hall said.
Hall said he always cleans up the property after he buys it.
"It shows up as a violation, but it's something that gets taken care of immediately," Hall said.
The other five violations — which ranged from unmowed grass to blowing trash to a downed tree limb in the backyard — occurred at one property on six different dates but were promptly taken care of, Hall said.
After receiving the violation notice, Hall said he explains to the Section 8 voucher holder that they need to take care of the problem.
"The tenant is responsible for mowing the property like any normal situation with a rental property," Hall said.
Records show no code violations at 22 other properties owned by Results Homebuyers LLC that accepted Section 8 vouchers in 2009.
Hall said he has provided some tenants a lawn mower if they don't own one or can't afford to pay someone else to cut it.
"We kind of differentiate ourselves as someone who has clean, nice houses, and that's how we are able to have repeat business and have new tenants," Hall said.
One Kenosha Avenue resident said grass in the front and backyard were often overgrown at the Section 8 house.
"The grass will get as tall as the back fence," said the resident, who declined to be identified, claiming fear of reprisals.
"It's between him and the renter, but if your renter doesn't cut the grass, then it's your responsibility to keep your property up because it's your property."
Harry Thompson, a retired American Airlines maintenance worker, lives next door to the home on the 4300 block of North Kenosha Avenue for nearly 36 years. He said neighborhood property quality has fallen as home ownership has gone down.
"This is a run-down neighborhood," Thompson said. "I think only about seven or eight people own their homes. When we moved here, I bought it cheap at about $10,000 and no one had a boarded up house. It was 1974, and it was nice.
"More people had jobs back then, and now, no one has any jobs. We have a lot of boarded up houses around here. Right now, we're trying to keep the drugs and meth labs out."
Thompson said a longtime homeowner lived in the house next door but died in 2007. Since then, there have been a few tenants with spotty maintenance.
Results purchased the home in August 2008, according to Tulsa County property records.
The home was listed as having a Section 8 voucher holder as an occupant in December but was vacant in April.
"Ain't nobody been in there awhile," Thompson said. "I've seen they've been fixing it up though with new plumbing and lots of other things. They've spent some money on it."
'Always paid our taxes'
Results Homebuyers properties are also among property owners with Section 8 tenants who had not paid Tulsa County property taxes on time.
A review of Tulsa County Treasurer records in early May indicated seven properties owned by Results Homebuyers had past due tax bills.
Hall, during an early May interview, said the taxes would be paid within the week when asked about the past due bills.
"By the time this story goes out, there won't be any that are delinquent," Hall said.
Records show all the past due property taxes, totaling about $4,300, were paid May 14 to Tulsa County on behalf of Results Homebuyers LLC.
In total, at least 183 property owners receiving a Section 8 voucher owe more than $300,000 in taxes, according to a Tulsa World review of land and THA records.
Amounts range from $160 up to $110,077.67 and reflect 2007, 2008 and 2009 bills.
HUD does not require owners to provide proof that local taxes are paid on time or have a penalty if taxes are owed.
Housing Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Chea Redditt said the agency cannot act as an enforcer or collector for local taxes. She said pulling the subsidy for this reason might unfairly impact the voucher holder.
"City government doesn't refuse to provide water, sewer and trash pickup to landlords who are delinquent on property taxes," Redditt said. "For a housing authority to terminate voucher payments when a landlord is delinquent on property taxes would simply punish a low-income family for something that is not the family's fault."
The highest amounts owed are on apartment complexes.
The Bradford Creek Apartments, owned by Shay and Klahr Properties Inc., at 3167 S. 108th East Ave., has an unpaid property tax balance of $76,527.10, according to land records.
Co-owner Shawn Klahr said there is a dispute with the insurance company about the amount it should pay to cover about $100,000 made in repairs. The property is also in the process of being sold.
He said the company will pay the taxes either after a settlement is reached with their insurance carrier or when the sale closes.
"We do owe taxes for 2009, and we don't have the funds to be quite honest," Klahr said. "We've always paid our taxes, and they will be paid one way or another."
THA paid Shay and Klahr Properties Inc. $115,239 in housing subsidies in 2009, records show.
The highest amount owed is $110,077.67 on the Red Fox apartment complex at 8210 E. 16th St. owned by Oklahoma City-based FEB Red Fox Apartments, which did not return a request for comment. The amount reflects 2007, 2008 and 2009 tax bills.
Arkansas-based Garden Terrace LLC owns the Garden Terrace Apartments at 1140 S. 101st East Ave. and owes $37,318.63 for 2009. The company declined a request for comment.
Also declining comment was the San Francisco-based Oklahoma Bay Homestead Park LLC, which owes $59,367.64 for 2008 and 2009 taxes on apartments at 1240 S. Memorial Drive.
A company listed at the same San Francisco address — Oklahoma Bay Landing — owes $33,464.75 for apartments at 9743 E. 12th St. Requests for comments were not returned.
What is Section 8?
The housing assistance program
commonly called Section 8 is in
reference to the section of the
1974 law authorizing the subsidies
administered by U.S. Housing and
The program has undergone
several models. The most popular
is the tenant-based housing
choice voucher, which is when the
holder may apply it to any home
available. The voucher holder
pays a portion of the rent based
on income, and the taxpayer
subsidy pays the rest directly to
HUD determines the number of
vouchers for each housing authority,
and funding for the vouchers
has varied each year.
Tulsa’s Section 8 program
by the numbers
4,681: Number of vouchers approved
by the federal government
for THA to administer
4,393: Number of vouchers
THA has issued due to decreased
federal funding for Section 8
1: Number of years Tulsa applicants
on average wait to get a
10,153: Number of people living
in Tulsa’s Section 8 housing
55: Percent of tenants receiving
Social Security Income or disability
payments as a primary source
$9,936: Average household Section
$269: Average rent paid by
$456: Average taxpayer subsidy
payment to landlords
36: Average number of tenants
moving off program per year after
reaching a self-sufficient income
1,300: Landlords participating in
20: Average number of units
a month with stopped payments
to owners for inspection or other
Source: Tulsa Housing Authority
Top 10 recipients of
Section 8 subsidies
Company: 2009 payments
Remyco Inc.: $1,179,935
Normandy Apartments LTD:
Steve Pharris: $610,227
Gardens Apartments: $568,485
London Square RAF LLC:
Stonegate Village LP: $442,872
AHF Tulsa LLC: $409,150
Woodland Manor Residents Limited:
WLA Investments LLC: $268,624
Crestview Senior Duplexes:
Total Tulsa Housing Authority
subsidy paid (2009): $17,753,613
Ginnie Graham 581-8376
Curtis Killman 581-8471
Garden Terrace Apartments in Tulsa on May 6.
Red Fox apartments in Tulsa on May 6.
Garden Terrace Apartments in Tulsa on May 6.
Bradford Creek Apartments in Tulsa on May 6.