Video, photos show conditions within non-compliant low-income apartments Downtown

Cory Waddoups, right, and Crawford Cragun, left, two investors in the slate of buildings that are out of compliance with the state of Utah.

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The investor owners of a slate of low-income apartment buildings in the Central City neighborhood near Downtown Salt Lake City say they’re working on improving conditions after falling out of compliance with a state agency that previously issued tax credits in exchange for affordable housing.

Feces on the back door of a building at Pauline Downs

The buildings, collectively known as Pauline Downs, are under the spotlight of the Utah Housing Corporation after recent videos and images from inside one of the buildings show apparent feces on walls and doors, windows kicked in, open drug use and needles throughout the area.

“The project is not in good standing with UHC for a variety of reasons,” said Claudia O’Grady, vice president of multifamily finance at the agency that’s tasked with issuing federal tax credits that help create and maintain affordable housing. “We are doing everything we can to work with the owner, and find a way to motivate him to get back into compliance.”

The buildings run from 200 South to 136 South on the west side of 300 East and have collectively been listed for sale for over a year. Any eventual buyer must keep the rents within the buildings income-restricted for seven more decades.

The Utah Housing Corporation has scheduled a meeting with the ownership group, investors from south Salt Lake County and northern Utah County, later this month to discuss the problems.

“The project is outside of its initial compliance period, and is not being well maintained,” O’Grady said. “It is our understanding as well that the owner is trying to sell the project, and we really hope he is successful.”

Cory Waddoups is one of the investors in a group that also includes Cameron Lee and Crawford Cragun who are listed as the collective owners of the buildings. Waddoups said he’s talking with a potential buyer. 

Waddoups acknowledged some of the issues highlighted in the videos and photos, and he said the homeless community was to blame.

Tin foil with residue in the stairwell.

“We’ve got this issue with the homeless. They hang out on the parkstrips. When they don’t see anybody they’ll break in,” Waddoups said. “None of this is from our tenants. This is from homeless that break in.”

Recent video and images from within the Embassy Arms apartments, taken by members of the Central City Community Council, show why the properties may have been slow to attract a buyer.

Needles and other drug paraphernalia are littered around the building inside and out. Ash sits in outside stairwells, apparent remnants of previous fires set near the building.

Doors and windows are boarded up throughout the building. Parts of the building smelled like urine, according to the people who toured the building. 

One member of the group finds a square piece of tin foil with apparent burnt material on it. Lower within the same stairwell, a group of three people sat. One member of the touring group said they were smoking on tin foil.

Waddoups suggested the video and photos were taken before the building was cleaned by a team that came in.

“They must have walked through this after the homeless had been in there,” Waddoups said. “That is generally all cleaned up and not looking like that.”

“We have cleaners that come in and clean that up multiple times a week. They clean all the common areas,” Waddoups said, adding that he walks the property weekly. “Sometimes we’ve had to have hazmat people.”

Waddoups said his group has helped to hire an armed security officer who sits across the street from one of the buildings during the day. The investors helped to bring in the security about a month ago, Waddoups said.

“We’re spending so much money cleaning it up every week,” he said. “The homeless get in there and trash it and do drugs and we’re cleaning it all out.”

Trash piles on the balcony of the Pauline Downs apartments.

The issues aren’t unique to Pauline Downs, and may show the effects of clustering low-income housing developments in cities.

Peter Corroon, a developer specializing in affordable housing and the former mayor of Salt Lake County, said he’s recently needed to step up security measures at a project off North Temple on the city’s west side.

“North Temple is a war zone,” Corroon said. “We are installing $100k worth of monitoring cameras and having daily patrols to deal with drugs, human waste, property damage and more.”

Like some of the area near North Temple, Pauline Downs is part of a cluster of low-income housing near Downtown Salt Lake City.

The city and other public entities helped to construct the 65 units of permanent supportive housing within the Magnolia apartments across the street in 2021.

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Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.