Greensboro mayor, housing leader call out Agapions
“I’ve had it with her, and you can quote me on that,” said Mayor Nancy Vaughan shortly after a Wednesday afternoon press conference in front of a condemned house at 605 Waugh St. in Greensboro.
Vaughan was referring to Irene Agapion-Martinez of Arco Realty. During the press conference, Vaughan and Brett Byerly, executive director of the Greensboro Housing Coalition, repeatedly criticized Arco and the Agapion family for having accepted a tenant’s deposit on the house even though the property was under order to repair.
Byerly shared what he said were copies of two receipts the tenant, whom he declined to name, had received in return for payments. A stamp on each receipt identified it as having been issued by “Elm Street Realty” at 625 S. Elm St.
Byerly said that “Elm Street Realty” was actually Arco Realty, which lists 625 S. Elm as its address on its webpage. Arco also manages the Summit-Cone Apartments at 3100 Summit Ave., where five children died in a fire on May 12, 2018.
Both receipts shown to the press by Byerly had “605 Waugh Street” written on them, along with “Application.” The first, dated April 12, 2019, was for $550, and the second, dated April 26, was for $175.
“The owner is Irene Agapion, although I think it might be [her brother] Basil Agapion on the deed,” Byerly said. “They’re convoluted in their ownership structure.”
“This is pretty typical of what we’re facing with this landlord,” Vaughan said. “This is an Arco property, belonging to the Agapion family. It has been condemned a number of times. We became aware of a renter who put a deposit down on this house back in April. As you can clearly see, it has a condemned sign on it. You are not supposed to be marketing or taking a rent deposit on a house That is in the condemnation process. They took a deposit. The woman asked for her money back, and she was not given her money back until either yesterday or today.”
She called the incident an example of “something that we’re facing with this landlord on an everyday basis” and said, “enough is enough.”
Vaughan said she’d informed the city’s legal department. “They said it was a misdemeanor to rent a property that had a condemned sign on it. I hope that we will follow through with a misdemeanor charge.”
She said that the city would need to determine who to prosecute. “We have the proof that they took money, the building is condemned. We’ll have to find out which entity the house belongs to at this point because they are constantly changing [ownership] from family member to family member.”
Byerly alleged this was to delay code enforcement.
“The city legally has to notify you when your house is under an Order of Repair. So, to get yourself a longer period of time, you can add somebody’s name to the title, and then the city has to start their process over so that person gets a legal notification. That person may be a 4-year-old; it may be an adult.”
Byerly and Vaughan found out about the situation after the prospective renter became frustrated with Arco’s not having complied with the order to repair.
“I think they were hoping that making those payments would speed the process of [Arco] getting it off the condemned list so they could move in,” Byerly said. When that didn’t happen, the tenant called another company but didn’t have the money for a new deposit.
“That company called our offices and said ‘hey, we have this lady here, she wants to rent one of our houses, but she doesn’t have any money because somebody else took her deposit and has not given her a house.’ That’s when I notified the mayor.”
Byerly and Vaughan both said that, once Arco learned of their involvement, the tenant’s deposit was finally refunded.
Vaughan said this wasn’t the first time the house at 605 Waugh has been under order to repair.
“It was condemned in December of 2017 and Arco fixed it. Then they moved another family here, and they lived in it for about nine months. Every single issue that caused it to be condemned the previous December reappeared. They weren’t tenant-driven issues, they were shoddy workmanship issues, and it was condemned a second time.”
On Dec. 14, 2018, FOX8 reported that Echindo Lufunga and his family moved out of the house at 605 Waugh St. after it lost power and heat, and was condemned for “38 violations including roaches, rotting wood, and cracks in the seal of the foundation.” According to that report, the Lufunga family had relocated to the Waugh Street residence after being forced to leave the Cone-Summit complex also owned by Arco, due to “hundreds of violations” issued by the city after the fatal fire on May 12, 2018.
“Chapter 2: Not Up to Code,” the second in David Ford’s five-part “Unsafe Haven” series on WFDD 88.5 public radio, described the Cone-Summit complex’s “long list of code violations” since being built by Bill Agapion in 1963. Ford identified Bill and Sophia Agapion and their son Basil as the owners of the complex, and Bill and Sophia’s daughter Irene Agapion-Martinez as its property management representative. In that episode, Ford also stated, “that by the 1970s the Agapions’ reputation for cutting corners was already well established.”
At Wednesday’s press conference, Brett Byerly described the Agapion family as having “no shame and a lot of money.”
He also said “this speaks about where we are as a city,” that a tenant would be “so desperate that they were willing to put $725 down on a house that has a condemned sign on it, the supply of affordable housing is so low in this community, and really, across the country.”
Vaughan said that Arco and its affiliates owe over half a million in fines for past violations and that the city is preparing to sue them, along with the other “worst offenders.”
One solution, she said, might be for them to “turn over some of their properties for the fines they owe.”
“Let the city take them over. Let us get them in good shape, let us get them back on the rental market, let us put people in safe, affordable housing. They owe us about $600,000. I’m not sure what they owe us in back taxes. I think the city could do a better job at this point. We could certainly be a partnership with some of our housing advocates. That might be the best route to go.”
After the press conference, YES! Weekly called Arco Realty and asked for a comment from Irene Agapion-Martinez regarding the allegations by Vaughan and Byerly. The man who answered the phone, who did not identify himself, said she was not available for comment.