$1 Homes No Longer a Guarantee

Low-income tenants are suing their landlord for allegedly changing the terms to 2 decade-old deal

A local developer is being sued by one of his tenants for allegedly changing the rules of a deal that would have allowed low-income tenants to purchase their homes for just $1.

A deal made in 1992 between developer Israel Roizman and a state housing agency stated that Roizman could collect rents for 91 homes but would sell the properties to the existing tenants for $1 in 2008.

"The contract specifically says that at the end of 15 years if you are considered to be a low-income person than you may purchase the property you're living in for the sum of one dollar," said attorney Geoffrey Seay who represents resident Carolyn Bethea.

Bethea was one of those residents who reportedly paid the dollar to buy her home.

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"That dream just seemed to go out the window," she said.

Bethea, who lived in one of Israel Roizman’s properties for nearly two decades, filed a class-action lawsuit after she was forced to move to a smaller unit last year after not being sold her home for the agreed price.

The stumbling point was that Roizman claims that residents need to pick up mortgage payments, said Seay.

Roizman collected over $5 million in rent including government subsidies under the federal low-income housing code, but he says the buyers will now have to pay a share of the $7 million in mortgages that he owes on the properties, according to the Courier Post.

“I’m prepared for taxes, but not for no mortgage,” Bethea told the Courier Post.

The original deal is being upheld, according to Roizman's attorney Leon Sokol. For tenants to still buy the homes they would need to certify that they are low-income and assume the remaining costs of the mortgages.

Property taxes, water and sewer charges and homeowners insurance would also need to be paid, according to the Courier Post.

Tenants have the support of Cooper University Hospital, located next to some homes in question, which says it is committed to the well being of the community and the revitalization of the neighborhoods.

“We believe Roizman should transfer the homes to any tenant who qualifies for $1 without a mortgage,” said Cooper Foundation President Susan Bass Levin. “We will continue to encourage the state and Mr. Roizman to settle this problem.”

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