This photo essay highlights resident experience before, during, and after a Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversion, a project of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)'s Office of Multifamily Housing’s Recapitalization team. We sent a team to meet with tenants of Three Links Apartments in Northfield, Minnesota, after the completion of the conversion.
The information below includes actual quotes by residents, giving an honest account of what it is like to live in a property that goes through a RAD conversion.
Three Links Apartments is a quiet and attractive senior living community for those 62 and older. Northfield is a community of 20,000 people a little under an hour south of the Twin Cities and an hour north of the Iowa-Minnesota border.
Our team met there with three residents: Mrs. Diane Decker, Mrs. Eldora Sietz, and Mrs. MaryLou Murphy.
All of the women had lived in Three Links Apartments for at least three years; and MaryLou had, in fact, been a resident for over eight years. She moved in to Three Links after the house she was renting in a nearby town was sold.
Diane – a resident of three years – moved from Wisconsin to be closer to family after experiencing a medical condition, and Mrs. Sietz – a resident of seven years – moved into Three Links after her husband passed. She previously lived in a large house less than two blocks away from Three Links.
The Three Links complex has several buildings and facilities under its purview, each holding its own spot on the spectrum of care for seniors.
Originally sponsored by The Odd Fellows and Rebecca's, a fraternal organization whose focus is helping the elderly and orphans, the Three Links organization was founded in 1899. The property was an orphanage originally, but slowly evolved to serve health care needs throughout the community, and then transitioned to its current focus on senior housing.
Three Links Apartments has 84 units and was originally built in 1975 under the HUD Section 236 program for affordable housing construction. The project is owned by the Minnesota Odd Fellows Housing for the Elderly and is managed and operated by its affiliate, the Minnesota Odd Fellow Home, Inc.
The tenants enjoy many activities and available resources, such as local trips; transportation, if needed, to services and shopping; Bingo; movie nights; a library, community kitchen and dining room; and fun mystery trips, where participants don’t know the destination until they are on the bus. Residents also have access to public transportation.
Residents first learned about the project through meetings and fact sheets from the building management. When Diane, Eldora and MaryLou learned of the pending changes from the RAD conversion, their first concern was whether their rent would increase. Upon learning that it would not, they settled back with excitement to watch the changes take place around the building. Most of the residents were almost entirely undisturbed by the renovation process, which pleased the three women.
Residents were able to remain in their units during the renovation process, and the contractors were in and out of the spaces quickly.
Changes to most of the units primarily centered on the bathrooms, interior apartment doors, and sprinklers.
"The biggest disruption was really just to the lawn and gardens, not to us in our homes," MaryLou said, smiling as she glanced out the window. The lawn and gardens give her an opportunity to spend lots of time outdoors during the summer, cultivating her love of growing flowers and vegetables.
Several days before renovations were to begin in a resident's unit, management in the building would notify the residents by placing flyers on their doors. In the few instances when furniture might need to be moved, the flyers would indicate in advance that this would be taken care of by the contractor.
In addition to replacing interior apartment doors and making tub-to-shower conversions in all the units to improve accessibility for the seniors, the renovations also included putting in a sprinkler system and updating the emergency response system. Two boilers were also replaced and minor modifications were made in the community kitchen and dining rooms for accessibility compliance.
Three Links was financed in 1975 with a 40-year non-insured State Housing Finance Agency Preservation Loan (Section 236) issued by the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA). The RAD application was submitted to convert the project’s expiring Section 236 and Rental Assistance Payment (RAP) subsidies to Project-Based Rental Assistance to preserve the affordable housing units. The project also had $1.8 million in deferred maintenance loans from MHFA that was tied to the Section 236 loan, also set to mature in April 2016.
With the RAD conversion and a new first mortgage insured by an FHA 223(f) and Section 235 prepayment, the owners were able to complete capital repairs and improvements. The $696,020 in capital repairs included: replacement of some apartment doors and new apartment interior doors; boilers; tub-to-shower conversion in all units; sprinkler system, and updating the emergency response system. First floor units were updated to meet accessibility standards in the bathrooms and the common area kitchen was updated to comply with accessibility standards .