Campus Habitat packs bags; new management steps in

By Gus Bode

Campus Habitat has left behind three of its Carbondale properties, including two that have been the subject of an extended battle with the city over safety violations.

The New York-based landlord handed the deeds to 600 W. Freeman St., 820 W. Freeman St. and 716 University Ave. over to their lenders earlier this month, acting City Manager Kevin Baity said.

U.S. Bank now holds the deed to 820 W. Freeman St., and First Internet Bank holds the deeds to 600 W. Freeman St. and 716 University Ave., he said. He said the banks have said their plan is to bring the buildings back into compliance and make them occupant-ready, then sell them.

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Baity said the city is working with the bank and United Campus Housing Management Group on 600 W. Freeman St. and 716 University Ave. Campus Habitat hired the group to manage several of its Carbondale properties earlier this month.

For 820 W. Freeman St., the city has been working directly with U.S. Bank, Baity said.

Representatives from Campus Habitat could not be reached for comment.

Wesley Deese, UCH Management Group chief operating officer, said in an email he’s visited the properties that UCH took over from Campus Habitat twice since Nov. 1. UCH now manages 600 W. Freeman St., 716 University Ave., and the property at Wall and Graham Streets, he said.

UCH has met with the city and First Internet Bank to discuss a preliminary plan to bring the buildings back to compliance with city code.

Deese said UCH was also aware of the properties’ troubled history when they took over management.

“Campus Habitat made us aware that there were some tensions and delicate discussions with the city regarding several repairs that were needed, and that it was important for us to be responsive to any requests they may have,” he said.

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Council member Jane Adams said even though Campus Habitat is out of the picture, the properties’ issues aren’t.

“I’m still very concerned because those buildings need a lot of investment,” she said. “We’re through with one chapter, but I think there are more chapters.”

Adams said she thinks the city’s efforts to have Campus Habitat bring its buildings to code contributed to the landlord’s decision to leave Carbondale.

The city’s efforts have included frequent inspections, numerous citations and, in September, $30,000 in fines.

Adams said she’s now concerned about the heating in the buildings as winter approaches. She said malfunctioning air conditioning had been a recurring problem, so the heating is bound to be an issue as well.

There have been issues with heating in the buildings, and inspections will continue normally, Baity said.

“Some are working and some are not,” he said.

Adams said the excuse that the buildings are old, which wouldn’t make the buildings’ problems the landlord’s fault, is false because it’s the owner’s responsibility to budget for costs of bringing the property to compliance.

She said she continues to work on an ordinance which would require property managers to be licensed with the city and undergo training about building code and working with the city.

 

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