Greenbelt Place apartment residents called Thursday for management to improve health and safety conditions at the complex and said they will form a tenant organization to help give residents a voice.
Many residents at the apartment complex have complained of infestations of cockroaches, bedbugs, and mice, unlocked exterior doors, missing fire extinguishers, and demands by management for rent already paid. They say management has been unresponsive to their concerns.
Resident Kisha Vinson said her son has developed allergies since they moved into the complex at Cherry Street and Greenbelt Parkway and attributed the allergies to the bug infestations.
“It's awful, it’s nasty ... and it has to stop,” she said.
More than a dozen tenants plus representatives from the North Toledo community group United North and its One Village Council gathered Thursday at the complex outside the central office building to rally support for their cause.
Simmie Lassiter, whose children live at Greenbelt Place, said that the complex’s management company might not be aware of the conditions in the apartments, and hoped that the tenants’ complaints would be quickly addressed.
“We just want the right thing to happen here,” Mr. Lassiter said.
The apartments, built in 1971, have long been plagued by complaints of poor upkeep and have had frequent ownership changes.
United North and One Village Council have helped organize residents and reinstate a tenant organization that disbanded in recent years. Beth Lewandowski, who holds leadership positions with both groups, said that residents have long complained about unresponsive management. The conditions are unfair to residents and the neighborhood, she said.
“It’s time to either clean up the Greenbelt apartments or shut them down,” she said.
Advocates for Basic Legal Equality has offered to represent residents and investigate the living conditions at the complex. Robert Cole, an ABLE attorney, said the organization assisted tenants with similar complaints more than a decade ago and reached an agreement with the then-management group to improve conditions.
The buildings are project-based Section 8 — housing that is owned by a private entity but subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for low-income tenants. Greenbelt’s owners receive up to $140,772 every month in payments from the federal government to provide housing for the low-income residents there.
Delores Harmes, who spoke to The Blade for a previous article detailing conditions at the complex, said she believes management retaliated against her for voicing concerns about the lack of fire extinguishers. She said her income dropped, but management refused to adjust her rent.
Property manager Ryan Agee deferred comment on most issues to officials from California-based Intercoastal Financial, who manage the company, but said there had been no retaliation against tenants.
Ann Syms, Intercoastal director of operations, said the company is aware of tenant complaints and was addressing them individually. She rejected allegations the company is unresponsive to resident concerns and said Intercoastal has continuously contracted with outside firms to battle bugs and vermin when reported by residents. She called accusations that the company wouldn't lower rent when residents’ income decreased “impossible.”
Concerns about conditions at the complex would be addressed directly with residents, Ms. Syms said, not with the media.
“I don't owe a newspaper an explanation,” she said.
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