LIMA — In a subdivision just south of Fourth Street, Paula Allen and her neighbors have waited over a decade for their homes to become their own.
“This is my little piece of heaven,” Allen said while standing in her front yard. “For me, my home is special. It’s emotional because I’ve been holding onto it.”
But with the final days of a rent-to-own contract soon approaching, they’re now seeking answers about a taxpayer-funded agreement they have worked to fulfill.
Councilor Derry Glenn is also threatening potential legal action depending on those answers.
“It’s not fair. It’s not right, and no one is communicating to them,” Glenn said during a press conference highlighting the situation.
Back in 2004, Glenn was one of the councilors who approved the construction of Allen’s subdivision. At that time, New Lima-Housing for the Future, a community housing development organization, was able to add 60 homes in the south side of Lima intended for low- to middle-income residents. The group’s partner in the project, Miller Valentine, received tax credits from the Ohio Finance Agency for their investment.
As for residents, they were able to move into the newly constructed homes under a rent-to-own purchasing agreement. As long as they lived there for 15 years, they were told that they could purchase the houses for under market value. Another $15,000, or $1,000 per year, could be used for a down payment and an additional $10,000 was to be made available for any home improvement prior to purchase as long as they were able to secure a loan.
In a video released by New Lima in 2015, MVAH Managing Partner Brian McGeady outlined the agreement.
“The residents actually have an opportunity to purchase these homes at the end of the 15th year, and that’s what’s really unique and special about this particular project is we treat the residents as if they’re homeowners from the day they enter the property,” McGeady said.
Allen said she initially moved into the property with that understanding.
“I don’t call it rent,” Allen said. “I called it house payment.”
Now that the agreement is reaching 15 years, Allen wants to know if that contract is still in effect. Property managers have given little indication and have little knowledge about the matter, Allen said, and in one instance in 2017, Lima police officers even came to serve her an eviction notice. Allen said management claimed she was late in rent despite the correct post-marking.
Barbara Massa, director of development for New Lima, said they may have to wait a little longer before details can be passed along.
“New Lima is working very hard and very diligently trying to get Miller Valentine to come up with the contract for people who wish to buy a New Lima home and make sure it is the same as we told the folks when we first started the project,” Massa said.
The project, which was initially developed by Miller Valentine Group, has since been sold to MVAH Partners. The company could not be reached for comment prior to press time.
“I’ve been here so long, and they’re not honoring their obligations,” Grace Breaston, one of the five, said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.