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Coin flip will assign housing

Sarah S. Chung

Flip a coin.

That’s how the Housing Board agreed Tuesday to deal with two roommates in a recently acquired housing complex who both want to buy their unit.

The flip of the coin will take place today at the housing office. The winner keeps the condo, but the loser has the right of first refusal for another unit in the 10-unit Marthinsson-Nostdahl Condominiums.

The Park Avenue complex was acquired by the housing program last fall. It has been Housing Authority policy that existing tenants who qualify for affordable housing be allowed to remain when the program buys existing housing, rather than competing for their homes in a lottery.

In the case of Marthinsson-Nostdahl, the renters in the complex are being given first dibs to buy their units.

The two roommates who both want a chance to buy a unit appeared before the board last night to press their case, suggesting one of them retain their condo and the other have priority to purchase another unit within the complex.

Some board members, however, winced at the potential for creating another unintended precedent in solving one individual problem. They ran into similar problems recently when they awarded the victim of a lottery error the right of first refusal on another unit. Subsequent lottery problems led to demands for the same treatment from other housing hopefuls.

“Just the thought of another Jim Shaw precedent makes me want to shrivel up and slink away,” said board Chairman Frank Peters, referring to the individual who received special treatment after the first botched lottery.

The key difference for the board last night was that the petitioners involved this time around are already living in the complex and one of them would be displaced if their request was denied. It was not a matter of giving them something that wasn’t theirs, but rather not taking something away that they already have, board members noted.

“I know there have been situations when we’ve helped facilitate the purchase of affordable housing where none of the units went into the lottery, where all were occupied by tenants,” said board member Cari Britton. “In this case, the goal of providing affordable housing is met by not displacing either of the tenants.”


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