It is hard to imagine the new ownership of the Riverview Apartments making a better first impression.
Since finalizing the transaction with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban and Development (HUD) on December 17, the members of the Daczewitz family-run operation out of Oregon have said all the right things while providing not the slightest reason for doubt.
On the first Wednesday of the new year, Kelly Daczewitz and brother in-law Jeremy Leckie flew into Granite Falls to assess the building's needs looking into the future. Daczewitz, who serves as Director of Property Management, flew out this past Sunday, while Leckie, who oversees the Maintenance and Preservation of the rural development properties, will fly home this coming Saturday, provided his business is complete.
Having been on location for the auction this past summer, the visit marks the family's second sojourn to Granite Falls. On Friday, they attended a gathering with a number of locals at Hinterland Vineyards in Clara City, but other than a little additional sight-seeing, have immersed themselves in the job at hand.
"Our first trip out here has been to assess the building," said Leckie. "We intend to look at HUD's list of needed improvements and to see what we see on our own, then we'll make a plan for how we're going to attack this moving forward."
Including the Riverview Apartments and Lamberton, Minnesota's Douglas Manor, the Daczewitz family presently owns seven largely west coast located properties through its affordable housing preservation company, RPH. The acronym, which stands for Reasonable Personal Happiness, is a statement about what the family hopes to obtain from their business for both themselves and others. "We're not looking to get super rich, we just want reasonable personal happiness in our lives," he said.
Obtaining and sustaining this happiness involves doing right for the people they provide service to. Had profit been the company's only motive, Leckie said the building could have passed inspection with little investment and, over the course of the next 30 years, milked of its value until it fell into disrepair, where it would then be abandoned for the city to have to deal with.
But RPH has no intention of following such a model and, on the contrary, stressed the desire to invest in the future.
"Overall, I have a good feeling about it; I'm excited about the complex," he said. "In time, I think that we can make it a very nice building––something that is attractive to the residents of Granite Falls and the surrounding areas as a premiere affordable housing option in this region."
Leckie said he is still gauging what repairs and updates will need to be made internally, but at the very least there are plans to update the apartments and community spaces, and likely the exterior color scheme.
Page 2 of 3 - "Our short term goal is to get the building full. In order to get it full and operating financially sound and in a stable place, which it hasn't been in quite sometime, we need to get the units up to the expectations of the customer, which is the tenant.
"We want to make it attractive and a place that people want to live," he continued, "not a place that people are concerned about in terms of the longevity or the security of the complex. I think that's a stigma that has become attached to the building."
The approximately 40 unit Riverview Apartments have been operating at about half capacity for a few years, but the feeling from the Daczewitz family is that the building should have no trouble reaching maximum occupancy once these changes are made, particularly given the rarity of available Section-8 low-income housing.
Leckie noted that that the RPH's apartment complex in Lamberton has kept its 24-unit, low-income facility, and Lamberton is a town of just 800 people.
Well prior to the sale of the building, the city commissioned a housing study in which it was recommended that significant building renovations be made to cater to modern desires for larger apartments. This, however, is not feasible, Leckie said, as the alteration of the units would cause the apartments to lose their Section-8 status.
As a result, all of the apartments will continue to be one bedroom units, suited to cater to no more than two people, he said.
Anybody who meets Section-8 income requirements, and that pass RPH's screening process, will be eligible to live in the units. Section-8 guidelines require that an individuals income level be under 80 percent of the area median income level. The rent is then based off of 30 percent of that income.
As the Daczewitz family members plan to maintain their residences on the west coast, Leckie said that the company will insist on hiring a property manager to live either nearby or onsite who can be available to tend to tenants and facility responsibilities for four to five hours a day.
At this point, Leckie said no decision had been made as to whether the apartments will continue to be geared toward elderly living or open to a broader spectrum of age groups. But regardless, it will be the responsibility of a property manager to help facilitate a community setting that caters to the tenant makeup.
When all is said and done, "We think it'll be one of the nicest places to live in town, he said. "It's got a great view of the river. It's centrally located and it's an easy walk to the downtown. I think it just needs a change in consciousness as to what the building is.
In sum, seven members of the Daczewitz family comprise the RPH team with patriarch John Daczewitz serving as company owner, founder and CEO. Daczewitz, who is also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), has roughly 35 years experience working in affordable housing both as an Owner/Operator and Independent Auditor.
Page 3 of 3 - The family partnership has but one stated goal: To provide the highest quality affordable housing to families and individuals in need.