Some tenants living in properties owned by Hartford's Housing Authority are raising concerns about their living conditions.
The Housing Authority is one of Hartford's most prominent landlords. Its board members are selected by the mayor of Hartford and approved by the City Council. It has been the subject of hundreds of housing violation cases and complaints according to the City of Hartford’s online database of housing violations.
Some of the Housing Authority’s poorest tenants have spoken out to the Troubleshooters, claiming the living conditions in their apartments are unacceptable.
Carmen Cuevas allowed the Troubleshooters inside her Dillon Road apartment last month. She pointed out damage and maintenance problems, including leaky faucets, water damage to the walls and ceilings, and a hole in her bathroom floor.
“We live in these conditions for a lot of years. The kitchen always is leaking the water, the bathroom, the water comes out from the rooms,” Cuevas said.
The unit is part of the Westbrook Village, which the Housing Authority says will be demolished later this year. They have told residents to vacate the property and say they are helping them with the move.
“The Housing Authority of the City of Hartford is currently working to relocate all residents of Westbrook Village (including 18 Dillon Road). Each family is being assisted by a relocation specialist,” Annette Sanderson, Hartford Housing Authority’s Executive Director, said in a statement.
But Cuevas and her disabled sister, Maria Rodriguez, are still living there and say they don’t have the financial resources to move, nor can they find a suitable alternative.
“They don’t help us to move out someplace else, so we have to do it by ourselves now, because we can’t find nowhere to move, and they don’t help us. We can’t find nowhere to go,” Cuevas said.
Records provided to NBC Connecticut by the City of Hartford show on October 10, 2017, the apartment was “found in violation” by City of Hartford Housing Code Enforcement.
“We have problems with the water, with the heater. We don’t want to be here no more,” Cuevas said.
She is most concerned for her older sister, who Cuevas describes as having ongoing health issues and is confined mostly to her bed or wheelchair.
“The problem is my sister has a lot of heart issues. She’s a breast cancer survivor; she’s asthmatic,” Cuevas said.
NBC Connecticut repeatedly asked Sanderson for an interview to discuss the concerns raised by some of her residents. She declined an interview, and she did not address questions we sent her about the living conditions of the units we visited.
On the Hartford Housing Authority website, they write that their mission is “be a fiscally sound agency that provides safe, decent and affordable high-quality housing and homeownership choices.”
But Cuevas says that’s not the case in her situation.
The City of Hartford online database of housing violations shows more than 1,500 closed cases from 2008 through January 2018 for properties owned by the Hartford Housing Authority. The cases include violations, unfounded complaints, and problems that have been fixed. The city says it does not separate confirmed or unconfirmed cases.
“The Housing Authority of the City of Hartford continues to work with the License and Inspections Department of the City of Hartford to clarify the status of the cases that are still labeled as “current” or “open” on their database,” Sanderson said in her statement.
They dispute that all of the cases in the city’s database are living condition problems.
The Troubleshooters visited some of the Housing Authority's other properties listed by the city as “current cases” or “found in violation” over the last year.
A Hartford housing enforcement report from January shows a mother at Mary Shepherd Place contacted the city three times about the water damage inside her apartment. The tenant tells the Troubleshooters those repairs were eventually taken care of, but the bathroom still needs work.
In April, NBC Connecticut checked out a property on Green Street, where a pipe burst in the attic of an HHA unit in January. A violation notice from the city’s Department of Developmental Services, Division of Licenses and Inspections labeled the issue “urgent.” The violation says there was excessive water damage to units, including collapsed ceilings and there was the possibility the electrical might be compromised. Asbestos signs were posted on the property last month, a few hundred feet from an overflowing dumpster.
Some work has been done, but the pregnant mother of four living next door will no longer allow her children to play in the yard near that dumpster. She hopes the mess is cleaned up soon.
Two families from the Green Street building are now being housed in a local hotel according to the Housing Authority.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Cuevas told NBC Connecticut the Hartford Housing Authority let her know they found her and her family a new place to live.
All Westbrook Village tenants moving costs and related expenses will be paid for through their relocation package.