Norwalk Housing tenants decry poorly maintained apartments

NORWALK, Conn. – Complaints about windows that do not open and maintenance requests that are not answered poured onto the Norwalk Housing Authority Board of Commissioners like the rain one resident said was coming into her basement.

The School Street apartments are the only Housing Authority apartments that don’t get federal subsidies, meaning there is a perennial squeeze on funding to keep things up, NHA Executive Director Curtis Law said in response.
About 10 School Street residents surprised the board at Wednesday’s meeting, crowding into a small conference room at the NHA office to make their feelings known.

“You’re not doing anything on School Street,” one resident said. “But today, for some reason, because the state is coming tomorrow, you all are running around trying to fix everything so that everything will be alright when the state come tomorrow. Why is that? Not near a window in my house works. If there is a fire in my house, we’re all going to die. Not near a window been fixed since we lived there.”

The resident, who said she would like to be identified by her last name — Lamar — only, said she pays $460 a month in rent for a two-bedroom apartment. She protested a proposed rent hike.

“Regardless of how much my rent is, if I get a raise you’re going to go up on that, too,” Lamar said. “You take that and now you want another $15. How am I supposed to live and pay your rent, pay the electricity, pay the utilities? … I should have stayed in Roodner Court and get a new bathroom every other year. I moved up there to hopefully do better for my kids but instead I am going broke trying to do better. I don’t think that’s fair.”

A young woman kept her arm on her mother’s shoulder as she talked, speaking English for the School Street resident.

“There was something wrong with the fan, like the electrical circuit, and it caught on fire,” she said. “They sent somebody to clean up the smoke and to paint the ceilings, and supposedly to change the vent of the thing. The vent still has a hole, like a rip through it.”

The smoke still shows through the paint, she said. Her mother calls all the time, to no avail, she said.

“The heaters from downstairs don’t work at all,” she said. “The baseboards don’t work. She said the ceiling in the half bathroom is cracked, like it’s about to fall. All the tiles are lifting. She had to put sticky tiles on the floor because it’s just gross. There was, like, black stuff coming out of them. She put sticky tiles and she asked for a transfer to another apartment. They told her that because of the sticky tiles then she wasn’t allowed to have another transfer but they don’t want to go there and change the tiles for her. Her bathroom, like the top of the tub, it has lifted up. It has, like, water damage all along the top like it’s going to fall. It’s just really bad.”

Commissioner Diedre Davis said it’s a problem.

“Even in Roodner the same thing happens,” she said. “OK, you’ve got maintenance men there. They do a walk-through all the time, they write these things down. Guess what? The things are never fixed. The tenants should not have to continuously call. … What’s the sense of doing inspections when nothing is being done about it?”

One Roodner tenant called three people at the highest administrative levels and got nowhere, she said.

“’I’m sorry’ doesn’t fix your apartment. …. It’s very frustrating,” she said. “I’ve gotten calls from School Street saying they do nothing up there. Nothing. They’ve still got the same cabinets and everything. That is a problem. It’s a problem.”

One resident said she takes a screwdriver to tighten the screws on her cabinets, but rot makes that ineffective. Water comes into the basement and she can’t use the vacuum cleaner down there, she said.

There are 34 units in the School Street complex, commissioners said. Inspections cost the authority money and are done yearly.

But Lamar said she has lived there 12 years and been inspected once. Promises were made when she moved in, but were not kept, she said.
Law suggested she go back to Roodner, where her rent would be based on a percentage of income.

“I’ve got a house full of furniture for a house that’s upstairs and downstairs and a basement,” she said, explaining why that wouldn’t work.

NHA Director of Maintenance Daniel Williamson said the School Street windows don’t open because the building is old.

“Bay windows sag in place over the years and now they’re kind of locked in place, you can’t open them,” he said.

NHA Deputy Director Candace Mayer did not return a Thursday phone call. The age of the complex was one of the questions she would have been asked.

Law said Wednesday that finances are the issue.

“This goes back quite a few years,” he said. “If you recall, with Colonial Village, it was in the same situation. There was no subsidy and every year we would have to raise the rent. It got to the point where … we missed a couple, three years of not doing anything. As a result of that, Colonial village started going down the tube.”

That was because there wasn’t a sufficient reserve, he said.
“We were fortunate, and one of the few housing authorities in the state that was able to get Section 8, for Colonial Village. So then the rents could be based on a percentage of income,” he said. “This project is just like Colonial Village to the extent that the rents are flat. So to the extent that the rents cannot support the operation, there are things clearly that will not get done.”

Commissioner Larry Katz asked how School Street could become Section 8.

“We have to be lucky,” Law said. “…We have to wait for Congress to appropriate money. We would love to do it.”
Commissioners said they would look into the maintenance records to verify the complaints, and see what could be done.


5 responses to “Norwalk Housing tenants decry poorly maintained apartments”

  1. Ms. ACA

    The husband and wife team of Law and Mayer are playing smoke and mirrors with the residents. There is a long history of resident complaints of maintenance issues that are not addressed by the NHA. Furthermore, Law has been on the government dole far too long serving as executive director for about 40 years. The organization needs new leadership, and a new direction, along with 21st century ideas.

  2. the donut hole

    NHA makes NEON look like an after school bake sale. Where’d the money go? No one will ever know.

  3. Marjorie M

    Are tenants allowed lifelong rentals even when their salaries increase? Who keeps track of all this? Do Roodner Court residents have lifelong rights to an apartment? How does all of this work?

  4. Amazed

    NHA just terminated several childcare employees yesterday so I’m not sure they are any better than NEON. In my opinion it’s much of the same.

  5. things that makes you go hmmmmm

    Neon is pretty much closed, the things i want to know is if the same people have their hands in the same pot. Also when is the investigation going to happen for both agencies. Nepotism us in the NHA now what’s going to happen.

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