Holly Ridge extends hotel stay for former Holly Plaza residents; Mayor Jeff Winzel gives statement

HOLLY RIDGE, N.C. (WECT) – The Town of Holly Ridge announced that former residents of the Holly Plaza Apartments can stay at the hotel in Jacksonville until Monday, Jan. 15.

In the announcement, the town states that the decision comes as it “has not heard back from other sources.” Former residents of the Holly Plaza Apartments began to move out in October due to mold issues. In November, the town council voted unanimously to abandon repairs of the apartments due to cost.

Mayor Jeff Wenzel released a video further explaining how residents can use the USDA vouchers and how to obtain more information from the town and attorneys representing both the town and the residents involved in a class action lawsuit against the town, the property and the property owner.

The USDA vouchers, unlike HUD vouchers, can go to any landlord or apartment complex that accepts the contract for the voucher; it can’t be used for a hotel. Residents can take the town’s settlement lump sum payment announced back in November and still be eligible for the USDA vouchers, but they will lose their HUD voucher status and would need to reapply. The town isn’t using the HUD vouchers anymore because they can’t be combined with the USDA vouchers.

The USDA vouchers are also renewed annually and can be transferred to different properties. The USDA wants to talk to people directly, and residents are directed to reach out to USDA Rep Hixson at 706-521-2224 or [email protected]. Wenzel highlighted that residents do not need to go through an attorney to get a voucher.

He says that the letters of priority entitlement (LOPE) to the vouchers were given to attorney David Miller working in the class action lawsuit to get the vouchers in the hands of residents faster, but a miscommunication led to the vouchers not getting to residents as soon as intended.

Any resident who hasn’t gotten their letter of priority entitlement to their USDA voucher is directed to reach out to Hixson.

Wenzel says that the residents have been moved to the top of the list for any USDA properties with vacancies in the three closest counties, but that the vouchers can be used anywhere in the country. However, residents are not required to use the vouchers at USDA properties.

Liberty Baptist Church is collecting donations for the displaced residents, and you can reach the church at 910-321-0201. The town doesn’t plan to use the apartments as housing, but it is keeping the apartments as is for evidence-collection purposes.

The lump sum settlement payments

Wenzel says 22 of 43 families have accepted the lump sum settlement payment from the town. They have until Friday, Dec. 29, at 5 p.m. to accept it and can reach out to town manager Heather Reynolds at 910-329-7081 ext. 223 to learn more.

The payments were offered as part of a settlement, with recipients of the payments agreeing to not pursue legal action against the town. The payment includes $2,000 for incidentals along with $1,125 per month left on their current lease agreement for one bedroom, $1,440 per month for two bedrooms, and $1,755 per month for three bedrooms.

If the tenant has less than six months left on their lease and they sign the agreement, they will get will still get six months of rent. With two months on a two-bedroom lease, they would get $8,640 along with $2,000 for incidentals and a little more for their security deposit.

The full statement from the town is as follows:

“Good evening, The Town of Holly Ridge has not heard back from other sources, so the Town Council has decided to extend the hotel another 14 days. Check-out will be the morning of January 15th.

It is imperative that all who wish to settle with the Town make an appointment as the deadline is the 29th at 5pm. You can request an appointment directly through the Town Hall, you are not required to speak with the Town’s Attorney. There has been some confusion about that.

Once again, the USDA vouchers CAN be used with accepting the Town settlement lump sum. If you have not received your LOPE from USDA, please reach out to their representative- Eric Hixson immediately at 706.521.2224 and his email address is [email protected]

Since the USDA and HUD vouchers cannot both be used in tandem, USDA vouchers are the only voucher options available. There will NOT be a HUD pass-through voucher.

Again, Manager Reynolds will be more than happy to provide satisfactory rental reference letters to any tenant and is more than happy to speak to anyone’s future landlord to explain the situation if need be.

Once again, the USDA vouchers CAN be used with accepting the Town settlement lump sum. If you have not received your LOPE from USDA, please reach out to their representative listed above.

Please understand YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO MEET WITH ANY ATTORNEY TO RECEIVE YOUR USDA VOUCHERS. USDA can provide those to you directly. Time is of the essence!

Anything the Town can do to help, please let us know.”