Recent inspections of Greenbelt Place generally support the litany of safety and sanitary complaints made by residents of the 176-unit apartment complex near downtown Toledo.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, working with property managers and owners, needs to act quickly to remedy problems or end Greenbelt’s Section 8 contract. That would allow tenants to take their vouchers to other privately owned properties.
HUD should demand a remediation plan from Greenbelt’s owners and grant them a reasonable period to fix the problems. Until then, Greenbelt’s Section 8 rent subsidies should be held in escrow.
The Blade reports that Greenbelt’s most recent HUD inspection, in July, noted bedbugs and cockroaches in multiple buildings, broken glass, missing mailbox locks, inoperable hardware, and other problems. A property inspection by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency in September noted infestations of mice, bedbugs, and roaches, as well as improperly maintained common hallways, including the presence of trash, urine, and feces.
Vermin can aggravate children’s asthma. Bedbugs, if they are not killed immediately, can multiply exponentially.
Yet HUD gave the complex a passing score, though it did note some immediate issues to remedy. One can only wonder what degree of squalor it would take for HUD to fail a property.
Nor are Greenbelt’s problems unique. Other projects with even worse maintenance and management records have eluded enforcement action by HUD, say housing advocates for the poor, depriving low-income residents of decent, safe, and sanitary housing.
Greenbelt Place is part of HUD’s Section 8 program, which generally requires tenants to pay 30 percent of their income for rent. Greenbelt’s owners get as much as $140,722 a month in payments from the federal government to provide housing for low-income residents. The complex is owned by Hampstead Cherrywood Partners LP and is managed by California-based Intercoastal Financial.
Launched in the 1970s to expand affordable housing, Section 8 purported to give tenants more choices and avoid the concentrated poverty and neglect that often plagued sprawling urban housing projects. Waits for Section 8 housing, nationwide, can last for months, even years.
Last week, Douglas Shelby, HUD’s field director from Cleveland, toured Greenbelt, partly at the urging of the office of U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo). Such on-site inspections by high-level HUD officials are unusual.
But HUD must do more than show up. It has to follow up with aggressive enforcement action or this dispute is headed for a lawsuit. HUD should meet again with residents in 30 days.
Greenbelt’s owners and managers get rental subsidies and other benefits from the federal government. They have a legal and moral obligation to maintain the property on tenants’ behalf. It’s up to HUD to make sure they don’t continue to shirk that vital responsibility.