From black mold to basic safety violations, a of Section 8 housing tenants have complained that response times from Department of Housing and Urban Development are at a crawl under department head Ben Carson. It turns out that the once beloved neurosurgeon turned GOP talking point robot really is unqualified to lead an entire department that he very clearly had no experience in. Imagine that.
An NBC News investigation found that, “1,000 out of HUD’s nearly 28,000 federally subsidized multifamily properties failed their most recent inspection.” That’s a 30 percent higher failure rate than in 2016, before Carson’s tenure began. And HUD was hit hard during Trump’s hiring freeze and has the lowest staff levels since 1999 according to the Government Accountability Office, a federal watchdog.
NBC focused its investigation on the Infill apartments, a 52-unit Section 8 housing development in Hartford, Connecticut, which scored 27 points out of 100 in a recent health and safety inspection; it would have needed a 60 to pass:
But more than nine months after the inspection, federally mandated deadlines for action have come and gone, and residents say little has changed. The black mold keeps spreading beyond the thin coat of paint that the landlord recently put on [tenant Rondesha] Brooks’ walls and is now creeping up her couch, no matter how much she cleans. Next door, roaches crawl all over her neighbor’s kitchen, where the ceiling collapsed this summer; the neighbor struggles to keep bedbugs from biting her 1-year-old granddaughter.
“How could they let someone get away with doing something like this?” asked Brooks.
It’s worth noting that the Infill apartments received a 91 point score during a November 2014 inspection under a previous landlord. Tenants claim that under the current property manager, the upkeep is lacking. While the new landlord is part of the problem, so is HUD:
HUD and the landlord missed one deadline after another. HUD began the process by issuing a failed inspection report to Infill’s owner on Feb. 2, according to records released through the Freedom of Information Act and obtained by NBC News. HUD was then required to follow up within 15 days to notify Infill’s landlord that he was in default of the contract and give him a deadline for correcting all problems. But HUD didn’t issue that notice until early May — 96 days later.
This attitude was confirmed by an anonymous HUD staffer who told NBC that, “There’s no urgency on anything.” Now, tenants are feeling the brunt of this clusterfuck of incompetence and low morale.
“I have no control over it, and talking about it to the people in charge — it’s useless,” said Erica Pierre, 31, a single mother whose Infill apartment is infested with mold and rodents. “If I could leave, I would.”
NBC’s team spoke to tenant Sarah Wheeler, who began to cry when she described the state of her living conditions:
Wheeler says both her landlord and the federal government have ignored her pleas for help in fixing the conditions in her family’s apartment. “We’re tired of having to make phone calls,” Wheeler said. “We’re tired of people coming out, like HUD and the city, and nothing is still getting done. Nothing.”
Read the rest of NBC’s report here.