Douglas Shelby, HUD field office director in Cleveland, front, left, tours of the Greenbelt Place apartments in Toledo, with residents and apartment management, including Ryan Agge, second from right.
The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
Residents at a near-downtown apartment complex who say living conditions are unsafe and unsanitary are taking their concerns to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They want HUD officials to listen to resident complaints, conduct an assessment of the entire complex, and perform an audit of the property's finances.
Tenants at the Greenbelt Place apartment complex say they have a litany of problems to contend with in their homes: infestations of cockroaches, bedbugs and mice; unlocked exterior doors that allow anyone access to building hallways and stairwells; management demanding rent or deposits that residents say they have already paid; missing fire extinguishers, and generally unresponsive management.
Several tenants met Wednesday with officials from HUD and property managers from the privately owned apartments; the complex is owned by Hampstead Cherrywood Partners LP and is managed by California-based Intercoastal Financial.
“We expressed our concerns to HUD,” said resident Kisha Vinson, after the meeting. “We’re asking for their help.” Ms. Vinson said residents hope to follow up with the federal housing agency again in 30 days.
The apartment buildings are project-based Section 8 — housing that is owned by a private entity but subsidized by HUD 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.
Douglas Shelby, field director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Cleveland office, who was at the meeting, declined to comment. Jane Ruvolo, who works as an aide to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), and attended the meeting also did not comment.
Earlier this month, residents had a rally to call on management to improve health and safety conditions at the complex and said they will form a tenant organization to help give residents there a voice.
After Wednesday’s meeting, property manager Ryan Agee said Intercoastal would review some of the concerns raised by tenants.
Documents obtained by The Blade show the complex’s most recent inspection from HUD noted issues such as bedbugs, cockroaches in multiple buildings, broken glass, missing mailbox locks, inoperable hardware, and other issues. The inspection, which was conducted in July, give the complex a score of 69c. The ‘c’ indicates some immediate issues must be fixed; 60 is a passing score.
An inspection of the property conducted by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency in September noted, “Health and safety infestations (of mice, bedbugs, roaches) need to be addressed immediately, common hallways are not being properly maintained (trash, urine, feces), units are not being made rent-ready in a timely manner. Tenants state they are moving into units as-is. Management needs to implement a plan of action to address these issues.”
The review also noted numerous files with missing move-in inspection forms and missing annual unit inspections.
“Some ... files appear to have been created a few days prior to OHFA’s arrival for the review,” the document states.
Beth Lewandowski, vice president of neighborhood group Lagrange Village Council, was also at Wednesday’s meeting.
“We’re dealing with the same issues we deal with every few years here. But this time we have HUD involved, so hopefully there will be some changes.”
The complex has faced serious complaints from tenants before.
In 1993, a dozen tenants took the owner of the complex, then known as the Cherrywood Apartments and under different ownership, to court claiming unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
They paid their rent into an escrow account during the litigation, which took five years to resolve.
At the time, a judge noted “along with the benefits of receiving guaranteed rental income and other government-paid expenses [the owner] must accept the attendant responsibility of maintenance.”
Bob Cole, an attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, representing a number of tenants, stated Wednesday, “There are serious public health issues that are going on here. This is not something that can continue without corrective action.”
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