The 952-unit Chillum Heights apartment complex in Hyattsville, in poor repair and long troubled by crime problems, is expected to be sold this week -- perhaps as early as today -- to a Chevy Chase development firm that plans a major renovation of the project.
Chillum Heights Associates, the New York-based firm that owns the complex, has agreed to sell it to the Artery Organization for about $9 million, according to Major Riddick, director of the Prince George's County Office of Housing and Community Development.
Riddick said the county will provide the developer with $28.8 million in tax-exempt financing to go toward purchase and renovation. As part of the agreement, Riddick said, Artery will offer relocation allowances of $600 to $800 to tenants who are forced to move.
The crime problem at the apartments, located in the northern part of the county, has included rapes and drug-related shootings.
Last April the county ordered Chillum's managers to stop filling vacancies, citing more than 200 housing code violations including leaking water heaters and inadequate boilers. The complex owners also ordered evictions of tenants who they said were behind in rent payments or were living in overcrowded apartments.
The 76-building complex, which once housed upwards of 3,000 persons, is now more than half empty.
Riddick said tenants who choose to stay at Chillum Heights during the renovation will be shifted to different apartments as work goes on. The project is expected to take 18 months to three years.
Tenants who stay, Riddick said, will face rent increases of up to 12 percent in the first year and 25 percent or more when the project is done. Rents currently range from $313 to $346 a month.
Riddick said at least 42 of the units will receive subsidies from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for elderly and low-income residents.
Dreyfuss Management, a Bethesda firm that currently manages about 25,000 apartment units in the Washington area, will manage the Chillum Heights complex.
Riddick said the renovation will include new roofs, new heating systems and new bathrooms. Apartment size will be increased and the number of units reduced to 760.
In a related development, a former Chillum Heights tenant, Minh Sach Tran, has sued Chillum Heights Associates in federal court, charging that the management ordered certain tenants evicted last spring "on the basis of race or national origin" constituting "a deliberate and systematic effort to alter the character of Chillum Heights on the basis of race or national origin." Tran was joined in the suit by the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, which has aided Tran and other Asian refugees who were forced to leave Chillum Heights.
The suit maintains that 93 of 119 families that received eviction notices last spring were composed of Asian refugees.
Tran, who is married and has three children, including a son confined to a wheelchair, says he has not been able to find suitable housing elsewhere in the county. He is seeking damages and a court order preventing the current or future owners from carrying out the eviction order.