EAST LANSING, Mich. — An agreement between the developers of Newman Lofts and the city of East Lansing says the apartments in the Albert Avenue building can only be rented to tenants 55 and older.
The developers, Harbor Bay and Ballein Management, rented to people younger anyhow.
The City Council decided Tuesday night to let it slide. This time.
“It’s been clear from the very beginning that the priority of the city of East Lansing was to have residents opportunities for older folks downtown,” said City Councilwoman Lisa Babcock
This past spring, Harbor Bay and Ballein Management, asked the city to lift that restriction without success.
In September, it was brought to the council's attention that some units were being rented out to younger middle-aged adults, in violation of the agreement.
“I was surprised they hadn’t been more forthcoming with the city staff,” Babcock said.
The council debated on what to do. Mayor Aaron Stephens said they didn't want to kick people out of their homes.
“Really we don’t want to put people out during the middle of a pandemic," Stephens said, "have folks try to find different housing."
At Tuesday nights meeting, in a four to one vote, the council approved an amendment to the agreement with the developers.
“Rather than get into a legal fight and in order, really, to protect the community and also to maintain what was promised to the community, we decided to approach it at a more amicable route,” Stephens said.
The amendment will allow the current tenants to keep their leases and even extend them. After they leave, no more people under the age of 55 will be allowed to rent in the building.
“As long as we make sure that these folks have a place to live until they choose to vacate the premises,” Stephens said. “Once they do, those go back to 55 and up. And we even further clarify that everything is 55 and up so we don't have to get in a legal argument about it later down the road."
Babcock was the one opposing vote to the new amendment. She said she doesn't think they got enough to prevent something similar from happening down the line.
“I didn’t think we got anything that protected us from them coming back and suing or trying to renegotiate the deal yet again,” she said.
Stephens said going forward there's a clear understanding that this will be strictly 55 and up housing.
Harbor Bay did not respond to requests for comment.