BROOKSVILLE — Franchette Dismel came to Brooksville from Denver two years ago to start a new chapter of her life.
Coping with multiple sclerosis and ready to move on from a bad marriage, she decided on Hernando County because her mother lives in Spring Hill. She and her toy poodle Gizmo settled in Hillside Estates, an aging but tidy subsidized apartment complex run by the Brooksville Housing Authority.
"When I saw all the old people and disabled people I said, 'I'm in heaven,' " the 49-year-old recalled.
But Dismel will be moving again, maybe by the end of the summer.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has approved the housing authority's request to relocate residents in the Summit Villas and Hillside Estates complexes and sell both properties.
Spending millions to fixing the properties doesn't make financial sense, and residents would be better served by using federal vouchers to find other housing, HUD officials say.
"We agree with (the authority's) determination that the development is obsolete and unsafe … and no reasonable program of modifications is cost-effective to return the public housing to useful life," HUD spokeswoman Gloria Shanahan told the Times in an email.
The next step is to secure housing vouchers for the tenants in both complexes, city housing board Chairman Randy Woodruff said. Now that HUD has approved the plan to dispose of the complexes, Woodruff said, that should be a mere formality.
He said it's possible that residents could begin moving by the end of the summer.
"We're happy that we're getting closer to the end of this process," he said.
Tenants can use those vouchers anywhere in the country. The authority has vowed to help tenants find housing and will pay a total of about $165,000 for all the residents' moving expenses. No resident will be required to move until they find housing, and the property will not be sold until all residents have moved.
Officials had not formally notified residents of the approval by Thursday, but a meeting will be held soon to update tenants and explain the process, said board member Gary Schraut.
The board voted to start the application process in the summer of 2010, about the same time Dismel moved into her apartment. An architectural study had concluded that repairing and modernizing both of the apartment complexes — comprised of 126 total units in 53 residential buildings, all built in 1973 — would cost a little more than $17 million.
The authority's application notes that the infrastructure at the complexes "has deteriorated 90 percent," and that 70 percent of the work orders involve plumbing problems and repairs. The buildings also need new roofs.
At Hillside Estates, settling has caused extensive cracking to walls, floors and foundations. Including underpinning, repairing the apartments would be more expensive than building new ones.
The application included a letter from the city building department recommending the authority demolish the complexes due to serious health and environmental concerns.
The authority had originally proposed to demolish the units, but the estimated cost for that came in at $1.1 million.
A recent independent appraisal of both properties put the total fair market value at $272,000, and HUD's approval stipulates that the authority receive at least that much at auction.
That figure is significantly lower than the Hernando County Property Appraiser's values.
Hillside Estates sits on a 22-acre parcel between U.S. 41 and the Good Neighbor Trail, just east of the now-shuttered Rogers Christmas House Village. The buildings are valued at $1.8 million, and the land is worth $316,246, according to the property appraiser.
Summit Villas sits on 2 acres in the 500 block Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard, west of Hale Avenue. According to the property appraiser, the land value is $83,790, and the three apartment buildings and associated features are worth $549,312.
Both parcels are zoned for multifamily residential use, and both are in the Brooksville/Hernando Enterprise Zone, an area targeted for revitalization. Businesses that set up shop there could qualify for tax incentives.
Board members said they still hope that one or both properties could be the future site of affordable housing project like the Magnolia Gardens in Brooksville, the first affordable housing project completed by the Hernando County Housing Authority. The complex on Barnett Road is a public-private partnership between the housing authority, developer NRP Group and Bank of America.
The city and county housing boards will have a joint meeting May 23 to talk about possible options. The location: Magnolia Gardens.
"I think there's things we could share with HUD to show those properties will benefit Brooksville and Hernando County," Schraut said.
Dismel, the Colorado transplant, said her unit has suffered from electrical issues, and some of her neighbors and their guests are loud. Generally, though, she'd be happy to stay there.
"All this stuff they promise, if it's fulfilled, I guess we have no choice but to pack."
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.