Note: This story was last updated at 1 a.m. Aug. 9.
Tenants at Applewood Apartments have been told the buildings will be closed September 30, according to a letter they received this weekend.
The letter was from Applewood Apartments owner Joseph J. Levitt Jr., a Knoxville attorney.
Levitt was not available to talk to a reporter on Monday.
The letter told tenants that Levitt, who cited health-related reasons for the closing, was providing them a 60-day notice.
The 120 apartment units are on Hillside Road and Hunter Circle in the Highland View neighborhood. They’ve been the subject of code enforcement battles that have dragged on for several years in city, county, and state courtrooms between Levitt and the City of Oak Ridge. There was a hearing scheduled a few weeks ago on one Applewood-related case in Anderson County Circuit Court in Clinton, but it was delayed because the judge was ill.
Applewood tenants pay as little as $275 per month in rent, and questions have already been raised about where else they might live. The Applewood staff has reportedly provided tenants with information on other potential homes and other resources, but it’s not clear that there are other housing options in that same price range. A few people interviewed Monday said some tenants have health problems, and some don’t have family, friends, or vehicles.
“I tried to keep the apartments going as long as possible to provide affordable housing for the working people of Oak Ridge,” Levitt said in his letter.
The legal battle between Levitt and the city has included demolition orders, disputes over fines, legal appeals, votes on whether at least some of the buildings are unfit for human occupation and use, and contentious board and courtroom hearings on city code-related issues.
In the past, city officials have said they want the buildings repaired, while Levitt and staff members have said they have made repairs.
Over the years, a few tenants have approached a reporter to defend the apartments and say they appreciate being able to live at Applewood at a low monthly rate, and they haven’t had any major issues with the apartments. Several years ago, one tenant invited a news crew inside her apartment to do a story on the condition of her unit, which appeared, to an untrained eye, to be okay.
Two people who talked to a reporter outside one building on Hillside Road on Monday said they wish they had had more advance notice of the apartment closing and they wish there had been more repairs, but they emphasized that they had lived at the 13-building apartment complex because it had the least expensive rent around. The next cheapest option, which isn’t currently available, starts at $475 per month, one woman said.
Outside Applewood, some Oak Ridge residents have long wanted more improvements to the buildings or a resolution of the case, even if they were concerned about the fate of the tenants.
It wasn’t immediately clear what will happen to the two-story buildings after September 30.
There are 49 tenants at Applewood, including two employees. Applewood has one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom apartments.
See previous Applewood Apartments stories here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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