More than two years after a tornado tore through a low-income housing cooperative in Springfield, Massachusetts, the residents of the damaged complex face an uncertain future. More than two dozen homes remain vacant and condemned and there is the threat of foreclosure by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Twenty-six of the 40 units at the Hill Homes Housing Cooperative, a townhouse complex financed by a HUD mortgage, were heavily damaged by the tornado that roared through Springfield on June 1, 2011. Efforts to rebuild have snagged over disagreements on how to proceed. Some co-op members believe the complex can be rehabbed. Others favor demolition and rebuilding from scratch.
Marilyn Bryant, the president of the co-op board said the uncertainty over the last two years has been frustrating.
Last winter, the Boston office of HUD made a foreclosure recommendation. A spokesperson at the regional office said HUD headquarters is expected to make a decision on the recommendation by early September. Ethel Wright, the vice-president of the Hill Homes co-op board, said more than $300,000 is still owed on the 40 -year mortgage which matures in 2015.
A $1.3 million insurance settlement for the tornado damage is in an escrow account and the displaced residents remain in temporary housing.
David Gaby of Open Housing of Western Massachusetts, a non-profit housing advocacy group, points to the Hill Homes saga as an example of how tornado recovery in Springfield has lagged in the city’s poor and minority neighborhoods.
Springfield City Councilor Bud Williams, one of several local officials who have been trying to help residents of the Hill Homes development is critical of HUD.
Democratic State Representative Benjamin Swan has also been meeting with residents of the Hill Homes.
A spokesperson for HUD, in an email, said Hill Homes had a seven-year history of failed physical inspection scores, which triggered a technical default according to the terms of the mortgage. The agency’s foreclosure guidelines specify the local government unit, which in this case is the city of Springfield, has a right of first refusal to acquire the property.
Springfield College reportedly wants to acquire the Hill Homes site to expand its neighboring campus.