It was shut down by the feds for substandard living conditions, but now a Hartford apartment complex is getting a new lease on life.
Heritage Housing, Inc. out of South Norwalk bought the dilapidated housing complex called Barbour Garden Apartments for $2.7 million from a New York City property owner.
"What we saw was a property in dire need of renovation and we felt like we could be part of that solution,” Heritage Housing President David McCarthy told NBC Connecticut in August. "To some extent our mission is to improve these kinds of properties.
McCarthy said on on Monday that the sale went through on October 23, and the badly needed renovations to the property will begin next summer. He hopes to have the property ready for new tenants in the fall of 2021.
“It went downhill. You know I’ve seen people move in and out and it’s gone downhill,” said Charlotte Jackson, who lives in the Chapelle Gardens housing complex next door to Barbour Garden Apartments. “I hope that they clean it up because we’re getting mice, and rodents, and roaches from there over here.”
When HUD pulled the previous property owner’s contract in February, residents had to find a new place to live. The relocation process that started in April was supposed to take 90 days, but ended up taking six months. According to HUD, the last tenant was relocated around October 11.
McCarthy told us 48 of the complex’s 84 units would be Section 8 housing, a HUD contract worth $500,000 to his company annually. He plans to invest $7 million to bring the complex up to code by gutting the inside, remodeling the apartments, and redoing the heating system.
“He’s going to have to do a 110 percent rehab,” said Betty Wadley, who lives in Bloomfield.
Wadley dealt with mold and mice in the decade she lived at Barbour Garden apartments. Despite the deteriorating conditions, the complex continued to pass federal inspections year after year.
“I’m sure they can make it look good, but is that going to solve all of the issues at Barbour Gardens? We’ll see,” said Wadley.
Wadley said it is not just the inside that needs a facelift, but the neighborhood as well.
“The gunshots were flying through my house one night. I literally had to roll off my bed, roll on to the floor, and crawl in my bathroom and get in my bathtub for safety,” she recalled.
Wadley relocated to Bloomfield in May, but says she suffers PTSD from fear she lived with daily in Hartford. At first, she was scared to open her windows or walk out her front door.
“I think when I came I was waiting for something to happen because that’s what I was used to,” said Wadley.
Monday night, the Hartford City Council considered the first changes in decades to the city’s housing code, including more enforcement, inspection and accountability.
“This is an important step forward for this property but there are other properties like this out there,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. “Hopefully, this becomes an example that we can look to of holding the slumlord accountable, getting the building away from that bad ownership and into the hands of a property owner who’s going to work in partnership with residents but also just work with a sense of responsibility.”
Despite the deteriorating conditions and tenant complaints about unsafe living conditions, the complex continued to pass federal inspections year after year. As Heritage Housing begins to bring the property back up to code, Wadley worries that the federal standards it will be held to aren’t where they should be and that the same thing could happen again.
“I think the inspections that they do should be closely watched,” she said. “Is it really going to be livable for them or can they just live with it.”