Failure to Fix: Investigating HUD oversight in public housing

Failure to Fix: Investigating HUD oversight in public housing
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Thousands of Americans live in unsafe and unsanitary homes with mice, mold, and lead paint.

They don't have the money to fix the problems, and neither does their landlord.

“The air conditioning from upstairs when the whole unit leaks, I get all the water,” said Karen Angelin.

Angelin pays $400 a month in rent. Her landlord can’t seem to stop the vine growing from her bedroom ceiling. On a dangerously hot and humid south Louisiana afternoon, Angelin struggles for relief.

“There's no way you could cool these rooms because there's no unit,” Angelin said. “And that room is on the side of the hot water heater so that room is even hotter.”

Without A/C, she bought window units, but her landlord only allows her to keep two in her three-bedroom apartment.

“We’re taking care of them as much as we can, but we found the units are so old we can’t update them ourselves,” Angelin said.

Her landlord: the federal government.

Angelin lives in a public housing development. Last year a HUD inspector gave her complex a failing inspection score, a 43 out of 100.

That "C" means inspectors found life-threatening deficiencies.

Among the serious findings were damaged roofs, exposed wires, and other electrical hazards.

Investigate TV analyzed federal records and found hundreds of public housing complexes across the country that year after year failed inspections.

One reason why: a $50 billion backlog of needed repairs.

“It's appalling and it's unacceptable,” said Diane Yentel. “People shouldn't have to live that way, especially when the federal government is supporting that housing.”

We found housing complexes from Alabama to Virginia, from the Carolinas to Indiana.

In nearly every state, people were living in deplorable conditions with bugs and mice, without smoke detectors, or working windows.

In the last decade, Investigate TV found 365 housing complexes across the country have failed at least half of their inspections. A score under 60 is considered failing.

“Much of public housing is for disabled people, and for the elderly, and we just don't invest the way we should as a country,” said Sherrod Brown.

Click here to read what else Investigate TV learned about HUD oversight and its impact on tenants.

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