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N4T Investigators: Tucson yet to fulfill 17-year-old agreement with low-income community

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park villa homes

TUCSON (KVOA) - Tenants of a low-income housing community in Tucson were made a promise nearly two decades ago by the city. The promise would allow them to become homeowners at a low price. 

But several of the long-time tenants tell the News 4 Tucson Investigators the City has failed to reach its end of the agreement. 

Seventeen years ago, the City agreed to a deal allowing tenants who lived in the Park Villa Homes community, located off Park Avenue and 24th Street, to purchase their homes after 15 years for the low price of $25,000. 

The City was supposed to start selling the homes to the tenants by December 2019, but that never happened. 

Richard Laguna has lived in a low-income community for 17 years. He moved there after going through some very hard times. 

“I used to live at the projects with my three kids," Laguna said through tears. "I am a single father on low income. You know I lost my son to drugs. He was 24.”

Laguna lives with his daughter, who has special needs. He said the agreement would have allowed him to achieve a lifelong dream, to become a homeowner. 

“I just wanted to give my kids what I never had and that was a home,” Laguna said. 

But he said he has not heard anything from the City about being able to purchase his home, even though his rent was recently raised $50 and he has continued to pay rent monthly since the City missed the December 2019 timeline. He said he’s spent nearly $12,000 in rent since the time the homes were supposed to be sold. 

“I did my 15 years, what’s next?” Laguna questioned.   

Another tenant spoke with the News 4 Tucson Investigators but wanted us to hide their identity. 

“All of a sudden your rent gets increased oh no notice or anything like that everything is getting increased well why aren’t we buying now you’re increasing everybody’s rent but nobody’s having paperwork to sign,” she said. 

The N4T Investigators took their concerns straight to the city. Terry Galligan, Deputy Director of Housing and Community Development didn’t deny the delay in following through with the agreement as promised. 

“What happened ... I apologize for this but it’s a lot more complicated than anybody anticipated," Galligan said. "This is the first rent to own that the City of Tucson has been involved in.”  

Galligan said the city has every intention of following through with the home sales at the promised price but as far as the rent he admits it has been raised and he said it isn’t going towards any equity in the homes.  

“But that money is going to benefit the renters, to benefit the property and keep them up and going,” Galligan said.  

But Laguna said that is not good enough. He believes the city had 15 years to figure out a plan to sell the homes and it should have been done on time. 

“It’s unprofessional," he said. "You put yourself in my shoes. If you had a contract to buy a home, two years later, you’re still paying on the home and you don’t hear nothing from the City. Something is not right somebody is not doing their job."

Galligan said the City expects to start closing on the first of the homes soon.  

If you have a story you’d like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.