Feds inspect Apple Ridge Apartments

Steve Garrison
U.S. Housing and Urban Development enforcement analyst Jerry Creamer, center, talks Wednesday during a meeting at City Hall in Farmington while Assistant City Manager Bob Campbell listens.

FARMINGTON — Officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development performed a site review today at the Apple Ridge Apartments, an 80-unit apartment complex that has been the subject of increased scrutiny after a 64-year-old man's death at the facility in September.

HUD spokesman Scott Hudman said the inspection, which continues Thursday, will include a review of security, leasing policies, management practices, tenant-management relations and general maintenance of the complex, which is located at 1600 Cliffside Drive.

He said he was not certain when the results of the review would be made available.

"It will take them some time to synthesize the information and draw conclusions," Hudman said.

The HUD inspectors also met Wednesday with city councilors Mary Fischer and Gayla McCulloch, who have been vocal proponents for dissatisfied residents at the Apple Ridge Apartments, as well as several city officials and a representative of U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M).

The discovery of 64-year-old tenant John Hall's body at the the Apple Ridge Apartments, a taxpayer-subsidized complex for the disabled and seniors age 62 and older, on Sept. 29 prompted lawmakers to call for a review of living conditions at the facility.

According to police, Hall's body was found approximately two weeks after his death, though his family believes his death may have gone unnoticed for even longer.

Before Hall's death, residents complained of neighborhood crime, dilapidated buildings and general mismanagement at the complex.

City of Farmington Chief Building Inspector Derrick Childers talks with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development enforcement analyst Jerry Creamer Wednesday during a meeting at City Hall.

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office has agreed to review documents related to the Apple Ridge Apartments and determine what assistance can be provided to investigate those concerns.

The Apple Ridge Apartments are owned by Yes Housing Inc., an Albuquerque-based nonprofit organization that owns subsidized properties throughout New Mexico and Arizona. Dunlap & Magee, of Phoenix, oversees property management at the site.

Yes Housing Inc. received almost $600,000 in federal funds between November 2014 and November 2015, according to records obtained by The Daily Times.

Representatives of the two companies could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but Rose Silva-Smith, vice president of asset management for Yes Housing, Inc., previously said her agency would cooperate fully with any investigation.

Fischer and McCulloch told HUD enforcement analyst Jerry Creamer in a meeting at City Hall the problems at the Apple Ridge Apartments, a former "jewel" in the community, according to McCulloch, began about three years ago, when Dunlap & Magee began managing the property.

Both councilors said they believed the problems at the complex could be fixed by replacing the on-site manager.

City Councilor Gayla McCulloch speaks during a meeting with U.S. Housing and Urban Development enforcement analyst Jerry Creamer Wednesday at City Hall in Farmington.

"With a competent local manager, the problems (at the complex) would recede," McCulloch said. "I don't know why they don't see that."

Silva-Smith previously said she visited the complex on Oct. 21 with another vice president at the company and the "vast majority" of the residents they spoke with were satisfied with the local management.

Creamer said his agency could not force the property's owners to fire the on-site manager, but he said officials could discuss it with Yes Housing Inc.

HUD officials last inspected the Apple Ridge Apartments in November 2014 and scored the facility a 92b on a 100-point scale, noting only minor issues, according to the inspection report.

A property that scores 59 or less is subject to further investigation and possible enforcement action, according to HUD's website. The letter "b" after the score indicates that nonlife-threatening health and safety deficiencies were noted at the property, the website states.

Creamer said at the meeting it may be appropriate for HUD to do another formal review, given the lawmakers' concerns about the property.

Regarding Hall's death, Creamer said that, according to officials from Dunlap & Magee, Hall had told the on-site manager before his disappearance that he would be in the hospital, which is why his death went unnoticed.

But Fischer claimed management was lying.

City Councilor Mary Fischer speaks with U.S. Department of  Housing and Urban Development enforcement analyst Jerry Creamer Wednesday during a meeting at City Hall in Farmington.

Creamer said Yes Housing Inc. is also currently seeking tax credits to perform a rehabilitation of the complex. McCulloch suggested Yes Housing Inc. may have put off resident repair requests in the past few years because it knew the building was going to be renovated in 2016.

"It's a numbers game for them," McCulloch said. "It's a business."

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.