SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Some tenants on the other side of an enormous wait list for affordable housing have found a better life in their new digs.
The sale last year of the Chatham Apartments in downtown Savannah deepened the housing crisis for some of the city’s poorest residents. At the time, it was one of the largest Section 8 properties in the city for low income, elderly and disabled. More than 200 lived there with a deadline of Sept. 30 to move out.
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WTOC followed up and learned there are several people still living at Chatham Apartments who are waiting to move, but many have already found a new place live.
For tenant Margie Standard, she said the move changed her life for the better.
“Hi, welcome to my little piece of Heaven,” Standard said, as she opened the door to her new apartment - six miles south of the Historic District where she once lived.
She calls herself one of the fortunate ones and with an excitement she can barely contain.
“Isn’t it beautiful,” she said, offering a look inside.
Her new apartment off West Montgomery Crossroads is brand new, spacious and even has space for a washer and dryer. It’s something Standard said she’s never had since she’s lived on her own.
“I felt like I didn’t deserve this at first, and then when I got comfortable here it became wow. This is life. This is what people are supposed to be living like.”
She calls it an upgrade from the aging, crowded Chatham Apartments, a 14-story Section 8 apartment complex overlooking Forsyth Park.
For 30 years, Chatham Apartments was home to some of the city’s poorest residents. Many who also are disabled, mentally ill, or elderly.
Standard recently lived there for four years. She described it as her home - one that she was grateful to have.
“Things did go wrong there, but when you’ve been homeless, and you haven’t had a place. My attitude: It’s better to be grateful for what I got.”
Back in December, the property sold for $25.6 million and everyone there, including Standard, learned they had to move out by Sept. 30.
During that time, they’ve coped been a difficult reality: a wait list all over town.
“The pressure was unbelievable,” Standard said. "It was bad because when you deal with mental illness anyway and different anxieties and then to be told you got to leave, and you don’t know where you’re going. That dealt a lot.
One of her biggest fears was being forced to live in an area of town that wasn’t within walking distance of a grocery store. Standard, like many of her neighbors, don’t have a car.
Then she found The Woodlands at Montgomery, off West Montgomery Crossroads. It’s within walking distance of a Dollar General and the Food Lion about a mile away is where she buys fresh produce. She credits the Chatham Apartments manager Catherine with helping her transition. “Being here has really changed me. It’s made me more grateful, more at ease, more restful, more creative. I don’t know something about being out of that chaos, that constant chaos. While I did get to learn to live with it. It’s better to be without it.”
Standard along with 14 others from Chatham Apartments have moved into that same complex. Of the more than 200 residents who lived at the high-rise just 54 tenants remain.
QR Capital, a firm based in Atlanta, represented the new owner Abercorn Apartments LLC.
A spokesman for QR Capital said the new owners will work with the remaining tenants until they are able to move.
Many are waiting for the new Live Oak Landing apartments to open on Wheaton Street. The senior housing complex is near completion, said developer Bill Gross, to help those at Chatham Apartments make the transition.
He also added that Live Oak Landing is 100 percent leased with a wait list.
As for what’s next for the Chatham Apartments, a spokesperson for QR Capital said there is a renovation analysis underway right now, and he will share those plans once they become more clear.