Lawmakers Try To Revise HUD Inspection Process In Light of Church Street South Crisis

Some of the 300 families living at Church Street South have moved into new subsidized housing and others are staying at hotels.

Then there are families like Emelia Hernandez and her 5-year-old son who are still waiting to get out.

“I hope I can move soon out of here because I don’t want my son to get lung infection,” Hernandez said. “From the mold, cause I know mold is behind the walls.”

Hernandez showed NBC Connecticut how the property managers still have not replaced a broken window nor fixed leaks in her apartment’s walls.

“It’s very embarrassing because on these conditions,” she said. “Nobody should be living like this.”

Now, federal lawmakers are putting pressure on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to revamp its inspection process.

“There’s no way this property should have been deemed habitable by the Department of Housing and Urban Development,” Senator Chris Murphy said.

At a press conference Tuesday at New Haven’s City Hall, Murphy pointed out how HUD gave Church Street South a respectable score of 80 during an inspection in 2014. That report prompted outrage, he said, which led to another inspection in 2015 that gave the housing complex a dismal failing grade of 20.

Murphy has included changes for the HUD inspection process in the Senate housing appropriations bill. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is fighting in these changes in the House version of the bill.

“HUD needs to add to its criteria things like mold, and bedbugs and asbestos and lead that aren’t in their inspections today,” Murphy said.

Murphy said he also wants Congress to command HUD to take prompt action, within 90 days, when violations are discovered at public housing units.

“If there’s a silver lining in this Church Street South saga,” Mayor Toni Harp said, “It’s that the lessons learned here in New Haven might well prevent other people elsewhere from having to go through all the illness, heartache and disruption.”

Amy Marx, an attorney with New Haven Legal Assistance who is helping Church Street South residents, said it is important to track the health of children who have been exposed to hazardous conditions.

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