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Locust House sold to California firm; Apartments' owners retain local employees


Locust House, a subsidized apartment building in Westminster that residents contend has been troubled with maintenance problems, has been sold to a Los Angeles-based company.

The 100 units for seniors and disabled residents are owned by Casden Properties Inc. and managed by HAPI Management, both based in California, said Jeff Sussman, a vice president for a Casden subsidiary.

Sussman said he could not give details on the transaction or the California owners. But an employee of the new management company said the changes took effect Jan. 1.

Previously, Locust was owned by a partnership called Locust House Associates and managed by Humphrey Management, based in Silver Spring.

For tenants, much will remain the same, said Fred Arce, a Bowie-based property supervisor for the southeast region of HAPI Management.

"We're changing nothing, other than they will see my pretty face every now and then," Arce said.

Arce said he plans a meeting for Locust House tenants to answer questions about the new management company.

"Everybody's job is secure, everybody keeps their same rate of pay," Arce said. The staff will be the same, and will remain on the premises, he said.

Four people are on the staff. Arce said he is looking to hire an additional grounds maintenance person.

Residents will still make out their checks to "Locust House," he said, and the rent is the same.

"We want to live up to our name -- HAPI," Arce said. "We want everyone to be happy."

Bob Udoff, president of Humphrey Management in Silver Spring, which developed Locust House in 1976 and managed it until this month, said the sale was a business decision.

Arce said Locust House is part of a real-estate investment trust, or REIT, a federal distinction given to real estate corporations that pay 95 percent of their income to their shareholders.

"The REIT is a good thing," Arce said. "It provides more stability. You still have a management staff on site."

The apartments are subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which pays part of the rent, while residents pay a share based on their income.

Mike Melsheimer, 56, a resident of Locust House, said tenants have received very little information about the changes.

"Personally, I'm relieved they sold it," said Melsheimer. "I just have a lot of problems with the way it's been run over the last four years."

Melsheimer was among residents concerned about environmental hazards after some detected a sewer smell last year. Testing ordered by the county found no obvious hazards in October.

He said other problems have concerned heating, a lack of air conditioning in hallways, security and ambulance access. He said his problems were related to Humphrey Management, and not the local staff, which he praised.

Karen Blandford, Westminster city housing and community development administrator, said the city has always had a good relationship with Humphrey Management and Locust House.

"Generally, it has been well-run, and I hope they keep that up," Blandford said. "When we got complaints, they were usually very responsive. Locust House has been a really high-quality housing complex."

Pub Date: 1/21/99

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