MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The case against the Peppertree Apartments has been “administratively closed,” but only 10 of the 210 residents living there have received vouchers to relocate.
Attorneys for Peppertree’s owners and the city appeared in federal court Tuesday. They said the process takes four months, from the time a resident receives a voucher to the time they move.
Two weeks after HUD held meetings with Peppertree residents about the relocation process, representatives from the apartment complex were back before Environmental Court Judge Patrick Dandridge to update him on repairs.
Meanwhile, court records show some 80% of residents have been interviewed as part of the voucher approval process.
Tenant meetings with the relocation contractor are also underway.
HUD terminated its contract with Peppertree in January. The judge also entered an order to “administratively” close the case. The parties can still bring up any issues that arise and will provide periodic status updates.
WREG has also learned a Special Master has been appointed to handle the Environmental Court Case.
Attorneys for Peppertree said their client is making repairs to the property even though their funding has been cut off.
“HUD because the funding has been removed, has no obligation to continue to fund any operations at the site, they are doing so on a reimbursement basis,” one of the attorneys said.
Ward said the city will continue doing inspections of the property to hold the owners accountable. He also told the judge of the 208 families living in Peppertree, 170 have been interviewed by a relocation specialist. However, only ten have been given vouchers and of those ten, none have moved yet.
Earlier this year, Mayor Jim Strickland told WREG the city had found apartments in Whitehaven for all those families. However, Ward said finding affordable housing for all residents could take longer than the 120-day timeline HUD has given residents to move out.
“Affordable housing availability in the Memphis area, logistics of actually moving, and the processing of vouchers, so that is a process that may not occur within those 120 days,” Ward said.
In January, the judge told the owners of Peppertree Apartments they are responsible for making sure residents are protected while living there and that the conditions are suitable as they look for a new place to live.
In court Thursday, Special Master Marcus Ward said when inspectors went to the property Wednesday, it was filthy. They showed pictures of trash on the property, standing water, damaged brackets holding up the walkways, and signs of people living in units that are supposed to be vacant.
“With them going through a relocation process that does not elevate the fact that that the structure should be in the best possible shape, to provide them with sanitary housing and the dignity of housing that a lot of us enjoy,” Ward said.
Representatives from Peppertree showed the judge their own photos, which were taken Tuesday and showed clean parking lots and green space at the location. But the judge was concerned about photos that appeared to show that the bracing put in place to hold the walkways up was damaged.
“That shoring up was to protect from any harm or danger from those who may or may not frequent that area, we blocked it off, we barricaded, we sured up the places we had to for use. it has to be proper,” said Judge Patrick Dandridge.
Peppertree will be back in court on April 6.
We tried to speak with representatives of Peppertree after court Thursday, but they declined to comment.