Static: Wednedday, June 13, 2002
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Damned if They Do...

The Fort Worth Housing Authority’s purchase of the Stonegate Villas apartments raised the ire of affluent homeowners worried about an influx of poor people. But the transaction also raised eyebrows in faraway Massachusetts, home to a housing dispute of a very different nature.

The housing authority bought Stonegate from the California Public Employees Retirement System, the fat pension fund known as Calpers. And Calpers uses a company called S S R Realty Advisors to manage its real estate investments.

Turns out that S S R, a subsidiary of MetLife, found itself on the opposite side of a nasty housing dispute in Waltham, Mass., a few years ago. When S S R took over the Northgate Heights apartment complex, it raised rents by as much as 80 percent. David Kaplan, an attorney who helped organize opposition to the increases, said that, despite support from the Waltham city council, many tenants, including elderly and disabled renters, were ultimately forced to move.

Although S S R “acted like scoundrels,” Kaplan said, he and other protestors “didn’t have a legal argument. It’s their property. ... But just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right.” That’s a complaint that has echoed off the walls of the Stonegate complex.

A Calpers spokesman said the Stonegate sale was part of a strategy to streamline the pension fund’s portfolio by “getting rid of what we don’t want.” AnS S R executive said the housing authority’s $31 million offer was about $6 million above the Calpers/S S R investment.

Kaplan said he was shocked to learn that S S R was involved, in Texas, in helping provide housing for a group of folks similar to those it forced out in Massachusetts. Though no friend of S S R, Kaplan said whatever role the company played in the Stonegate transaction was “the most decent thing I’ve ever heard of S S R doing.”

Spelling Relief

After this paper reported on the bomb scare at Riverside Middle School last March — which almost got a teacher fired for some creative potty training as she was left isolated in her room with her students for 2 1/2 hours and forbidden to leave — a bomb threat there last week was handled in a much more teacher-friendly fashion. Administrators patrolled the halls, and escorts were provided to take kids in very dire need to the bathroom. Ah, what a little sunshine can do.

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