MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Millennia, a real estate company that owns five properties in Memphis and 200 across the country, is being accused of knowingly letting residents live in “unsafe conditions.”
The company based in Cleveland, Ohio, is in the real estate, development, management and affordable housing business.
According to the latest HUD data, Millennia owns or manages more than 200 subsidized properties in some two dozen states across the country, including five here in Memphis.
Millennia already owned Memphis Towers before it took over at Serenity, Cavalier Court, Gospel Gardens and Hope Heights. The latter three got new names and a facelift in the deal.
Memphis Towers is undergoing a renovation, but residents remain so concerned about safety and security, that they’ve been pressing a local board to reconsider tax incentives it provides to the complex. At Hope Heights, tenants went without hot water for six weeks earlier this year.
Less than a week ago, tensions boiled over at one of those board meetings. Frustrated residents pushed for answers from a Millennia executive who avoided questions from them and WREG by getting off of an elevator and taking the stairs.
However, the problems at Millennia-run properties extend far beyond Memphis.
Nearly 400 miles away in Atlanta at the Forest Cove Apartments where Millennia’s renovation plans never panned out, conditions were so bad a judge condemned the property two years ago and ordered it shut down.
WREG Investigators interviewed Forest Cove residents back in 2016 when it was still run by the troubled Global Ministries Foundation.
HUD abated Millennia’s Housing Assistance Payment contract at the property just a few months ago. Millennia is now suing the city of Atlanta.
Meanwhile in the Mississippi Delta, inside units at the Sunset Village Apartments, photographs capture mold-covered and collapsed ceilings, as well as exposed wires.
In the fall of 2022, a judge issued a Temporary Restraining Order that prevented Millennia from moving tenants back into what lawyers called “uninhabitable” units.
Families had been temporarily evacuated and relocated after a gas leak caused a mother and child to die.
A charred, gaping hole was left on the side of Shorter College Gardens Apartments in North Little Rock, Arkansas after a fire last October. Three people were killed.
A resident told our Little Rock sister station, “Next thing you know I look up and and the building is on fire and I hear a big exploding boom!”
Attorney Terris C. Harris filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of six Shorter College families, and other Millennia residents living in similar conditions.
He told WREG, “No one deserves to live amongst rodents, no one deserves to live you know, with mold and rats and roaches.”
The lawsuit accuses Millennia of “knowingly” renting units in “unsafe conditions.”
The WREG Investigators asked Harris, “You’re saying they absolutely knew that they could have done better and should have done better?”
He replied, “That’s exactly what I’m saying. When we talk to different residents who don’t know one another from completely different states, and they are saying the exact same thing, of course it’s a pattern.”
Harris says that isn’t acceptable for a company that boasts about its ability to rehabilitate and preserve affordable housing and is taking your money to do so.
“They say they get low-income tax housing credits for, we know they get HUD payments every month for them, but it doesn’t appear that they are putting that money back into the properties in which they own and develop,” said Harris.
In a public statement issued regarding the class action Millennia said in part, “Millennia Housing Management, Ltd. believes that the lawsuit purporting to represent a class of 86,000 residents is frivolous and believes that once, assuming that any class is certified, we will prevail on the merits. To claim that every project is subpar and that every resident has suffered damages is simply not believable.”
Millennia isn’t just in the low-income housing business.
It owns and manages higher-end properties like luxury apartments in Cleveland, Ohio where the amenities include a complimentary draft beer bar.
That same building is home to this swanky restaurant owned by Millennia’s restaurant group Savour, where diners can order caviar service or a tomahawk steak for $135.
WREG recently caught up with Robert Nichols, a resident at Serenity Towers. We talked to him last year, when he and his fellow Serenity Towers neighbors went for more than a month without air conditioning in the spring, then again, off and on in the summer.
There was a bed bug infestation and black mold that took a court order and months to clear out. In handwritten notes, code inspectors called it “deplorable” noting residents’ “health and safety” was at risk.
History repeated itself this year with broken air conditioning and elevators.
When we spoke with Nichols this time, he was headed across the street and waiting for the bus he depended on three days a week to get to work.
What he never waited on, he said, was for Millennia to ever make good on its promises.
“Corporate’s word ain’t nothing. Whatever they told you, us in this building they ain’t never did it,” said Nichols.
Millennia is still the property manager at Serenity which means the company remains responsible for maintenance and keeping residents safe.
Attorneys for the company are slated to head back to Shelby County Environmental Court on Nov. 14 where they’re supposed to update the judge on various code violations including non-working elevators, hot water and a new bed bug infestation.