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Longmont Housing Authority Emerging from Tumultuous Two Years

January 4, 2019
Unconstitutional police searches and methamphetamine contamination at The Suites are two of the issues the Longmont Housing Authority has overcome in the past year.

The Longmont Housing Authority is emerging from a tumultuous past two years that included a breach of tenants’ constitutional rights, a transition in leadership, discovery of methamphetamine contamination in several units and an ensuing struggle to clean up the affected apartments.

Jillian Baldwin took the reigns of the affordable housing provider in the fall, assuming a role temporarily filled by Moofie Miller after last year’s ouster of former director Michael Reis. Baldwin is righting the ship, said Longmont Housing Authority board chairman Bruce Robbins.

“I can tell you overall the board is very pleased with her performance and effort,” he said.

Reis in February resigned at the request of the Longmont Housing Authority board after a photo surfaced of him making light of the Times-Call’s reporting on the 2017 unconstitutional police searches of The Suites apartments. He later apologized for the photo.

The decision by police and Longmont Housing Authority to search The Suites without tenant permission led to the city settling an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit for $210,000 Officers and K-9s reportedly were invited to accompany managers to search for drug activity — an issue that last spring resulted in 10 units on the property not meeting health and safety standards because of methamphetamine contamination.

Two units at the Aspen Meadows Neighborhood managed by the Longmont Housing Authority also were found to be contaminated by meth and unsuitable for occupancy, according to Megan Herrera, a spokeswoman for Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, which allocates federal low-income housing tax credits to the state’s affordable housing providers.

Cleanup of five units at The Suites was complete by April, but meth remediation at the remaining units was delayed, with most remaining units brought back up to par in August, except for one unit at each property, both of which were cleared last month, Herrera said.

It cost $130,000 to mitigate the meth contamination across all 12 units, Baldwin said.

“Meth use is going to continue to be a problem not only with LHA, but throughout the city . We have to do a better job of mitigating the risk and keeping the expenses down. Unfortunately it does affect the bottom line and our ability to continue providing the services for residents,” Board Chairman Robbins said.

Herrera said the state agency notified the Internal Revenue Service — which oversees the federal low-income housing tax credit program that allows housing providers to offer below-market rents — that two Aspen Meadows Neighborhood units remained out of compliance with health and safety standards due to meth contamination for an extended period.

“One of the factors that CHFA considers when awarding future tax credits is developer track record. Outstanding non-compliance matters not addressed by the owner ... would fall within this scope of review for any future low-income housing tax credit applications submitted by the Longmont Housing Authority,” Herrera said, noting consideration is given to issues outside the control of a property owner.

But Baldwin has received no indication from the state agency that either the lengthy meth cleanup efforts or the management of Longmont Housing Authority under Reis would be a factor that could move the housing provider toward the back of the line for future tax credits.

Longmont Housing Authority in the past year also resolved several legal complaints.

Lafayette-based R and M Cleaning Solutions in May sued the housing authority for $3,500 for unpaid work done in February, but the case was dismissed at the business’ request after the full amount was paid two weeks after the suit was filed, according to Boulder County court records.

Longmont Housing Authority also received notice last month that the Colorado Civil Rights Division found no probable cause that it discriminated against Monica Vargas, a former resident of The Suites who alleged the housing authority failed to protect her from another tenant who was harassing her.

Boulder County court records also show another lawsuit against the housing authority last month resulted in an $1,800 payment to Vargas over an unreturned security deposit, and the case was closed Thursday.

Robbins said Longmont Housing Authority this year will be posting annual financial records for each of its properties on its website in an effort to be transparent.

“We have a lot of work to do, and we’re doing a lot of great, positive things here,” Baldwin said.

Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322, slounsberry@prairiemountainmedia.com and twitter.com/samlounz .

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