City Heights Needs $51 Million in Improvements to Be "Safe, Decent, and Sanitary"

Restoring the apartments at Covington's City Heights public housing complex to "safe, decent, and sanitary" standards would cost almost $51 million, with the cost of a total modernization estimated at over $84 million.

That's according to an independent Physical Needs Assessment of the nearly 70-year-old complex recently completed by Cincinnati-based Creative Housing Solutions, an architecture, planning, and consulting firm. The assessment was commissioned in August at the request of Steve Arlinghaus, executive director of the Housing Authority of Covington (HAC), and the HAC board.

The board will discuss the report at its meeting Wednesday, and Arlinghaus has scheduled a meeting with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's regional office in Louisville to discuss its findings. He also will brief City of Covington officials on the report, given the city's close partnership with HAC.

Arlinghaus, who took over HAC's leadership last year, said he was not surprised by the findings, given the complaints received by residents and the fact that the maintenance staff had been allowed to shrink to one-fourth of HUD's guidelines.

"The buildings have not received comprehensive modernization since their construction," Arlinghaus said. "There are numerous deferred maintenance issues at City Heights caused by many years of neglect."

City Heights, formerly known as Ida Spence, was developed in 1953 and consists of 366 units in 63 buildings. It sits on the southern end of Benton Road, accessible via Highland Avenue, at the top of a hill in a remote location.

Findings of the Physical Needs Assessment include many problems with fundamental systems:

  • Structural issues with the buildings, such as cracked foundations, caused by hillside slippage.
  • Deteriorating sanitary sewage lines that have already required some replacement with the failure of many others deemed possible within two years.
  • Deteriorated and failing gas and heating pipes caused by age and hillside slippage.
  • An inadequate and failing storm water collection and drainage system that is causing erosion and damage.
  • Undersized and obsolete electrical systems that don't meet modern code.
  • Deteriorated electric meter bases and conductor lines. 

"Most systems and fixtures are at the end of, or have exceeded, their expected useful life," according to a summary of the assessment from Creative Housing Solutions.

The bottom line, the report concluded, is that City Heights is "severely physically distressed."

A broader look at City Heights' apartments - taking into account design deficiencies such as kitchen, laundry and pantry sizes and setups - concluded that the complex "is not marketable for current housing needs" and "doesn't appear to be viable in its current configuration."

Covington Mayor Joe Meyer, who is chairman of HAC's board, said the report presented a lot of "stunning but not unanticipated" information that he and other City officials needed to study in more detail.

"This is really important information to have as the city and its partners continue to try to tackle the critical need for affordable housing in a holistic, comprehensive way," Meyer said.

The city and HAC have formed a consortium to better provide subsidized, affordable housing within the City's borders, including the federal housing choice voucher program and public housing communities such as City Heights.

-Staff report