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Brightmoor residents try to 'evict' management staff

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Longtime residents of Brightmoor Homes, an affordable housing complex on the city's west side,on Saturday taped an "eviction" notice with two dozen red balloons on their management's office door. 

Residents say they had to hold a demonstration in front of the office to demand that Northwest Detroit Neighborhood Development replace their property management company, KMG Prestige, with a management company that "has a competent staff and licensed maintenance workers."

Black mold, cracks in the basement, exterior paneling falling off and sinking steps are just a few of the problems the 200 residents have encountered over the last decade, said Richard Shackelford, an activist with Detroit Eviction Defense. 

Supporter Steve Babson, left, and 19-year Brightmoor Homes resident / event organizer Soummer Crawford, right, post one of their eviction notices on the front door of the KMG Prestige Management Company offices.

"They have been very disrespectful to residents and haven't addressed ongoing issues," said Shackelford, from Dearborn. "When they do come, they only do cosmetic work and to hand out red balloons."

If a tenant came home to a red balloon, it was a message from management to notify them, and the entire neighborhood, that the rent was late. A method that began in January but has since been discontinued, Joseph Tandy, regional vice president at KMG Prestige, told The Detroit News in November.

Tandy and KMG did not immediately respond to requests for comment on   Saturday.

One of the Brightmoor Homes Concerned Residents eviction notices posted on the front door of the KMG Prestige Management Company offices.

But the red balloons and the unattended problems aren't the only indignities Brightmoor Homes tenants say they’ve experienced from both KMG and the developer.

When construction began on the 190-home development nearly 20 years ago, the developer, Northwest Detroit Neighborhood Development, billed Brightmoor Homes as an affordable rent-to-own model financed by the city of Detroit for more than $2 million and federal low-income housing tax credits, according to the Northwest Detroit Neighborhood Development's project documents from December 2000. 

The concept was that when the 15-year tax credits expired, residents would be offered to purchase their house for an affordable price.

But the 2008 housing crash left the project deeply in debt, meaning residents now had to pay much more money if they wanted to buy their house. As a result, most if not all Brightmoor Homes residents are still renting, although the city of Detroit has a new pilot program underway to encourage their transition to homeownership.

KMG Prestige manages many properties throughout Michigan for private developers as well as 32 low-income multi-unit properties for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. It took over management of Brightmoor Homes in 2005.

Soummer Crawford, who has been a tenant for 19 years, said she's paid more than $160,000 in rent over the years and has no idea how much or how close she is to ownership. 

"We were supposed to have 25 percent and by about 15 years we'd own it and no one can locate what's owed," Krawford said. "My house is not worth how much I've paid, but I couldn't leave. Each year they tell us 'oh there was restructuring' and it would be another five years.

"The majority of the tenants are single African-American women with families...It's not right," she said. 

More than 25 residents and supporters of Brightmoor Homes protest before posting their computer-aided eviction notices.

If residents don’t pay by the fifth of every month, they get a $50 late fee. And if they don’t pay by the 16th, they get a notice to appear in court where they also have to pay a $150 court fee, which is billed back to the resident.

Tamika Powell has lived in the homes for nearly 20 years with her 5-year-old son and elderly step-father. She said nothing was more unresponsive from management than when her basement backed up in February. 

"There was water coming from all four corners of the foundation. It was ankle-high and I had to take care of it myself," said Powell, 42. "They didn't even come until mid-April and all they did was seal it. I lost a lot of money throwing out stuff that was damaged. We just want to live the way we were promised."

Aaron Mondry, a freelance reporter for The Detroit News, contributed to this report.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_