Once the sewage started to bubble in his tub, Richard Steele knew it was time to go.
Colonial Village Apartments on Columbus’ East Side had been her home for five years, but the last four months were spent living nearby with her sister after Steele, 59, said her residence had become uninhabitable.
Photos examined by The Dispatch show a dark environment Steele said he could no longer tolerate: a living room ceiling that appeared to be crumbling, sewage bubbling in the tub and kitchen sink, and the bathroom. rotten carpet.
Although he was homeless for a while, Steele said he would prefer a shelter to his subsidized apartment.
“What should I be proud of? Steele said. “No human should have to live like this.”
Rental accommodation in Columbus:Refugee tenants evicted from their apartments are often reluctant to file a complaint
He is far from the only one in such misery in Colonial Village, located on Livingston Avenue between Hamilton and James Roads in the Eastmoor neighborhood.
Residents voice complaints to Columbus, legal aid lawyers
On Wednesday evening, more than 100 residents gathered at the nearby Barnett Community Center for a town-hosted public forum where they expressed their frustrations.
During the meeting, city officials and lawyers from the Columbus Legal Aid Society also informed residents of their tenant rights and provided updates on a lawsuit that Columbus City Attorney’s Office, Zach Klein, filed in April against the apartment owner.
Legal Aid staff had gone door-to-door last week to distribute flyers on the forum to residents.
“There have been a lot of questions from the people who live there about what’s going on,” said Melissa Benson, chief counsel for Legal Aid’s Columbus housing team. “We want to make sure that tenants who live there and neighbors who have questions have the opportunity to get information from us.”
Colonial Village: City threatens colonial village owner if crime and code violations are not corrected
High crime rates in Colonial Village
Built in 1964 and 1965, Colonial Village was for years the center of suspected criminal activity and housing code violations that prompted Klein’s office to take legal action.
On April 14, Deputy City Attorney Tiara Ross filed a complaint with the Franklin County Environmental Court, a specialized tribunal created to streamline the monitoring and adjudication of housing code violations and harmful properties. The lawsuit named several defendants, including Columbus-based Apex Colonial, who took over the property in March 2020, and Westerville-based Aloft Management, who took over as property manager around the same time.
“This is one of the most egregious cases we’ve ever had,” Ross told The Dispatch after the forum. “Everything the residents said confirmed what I was already feeling, and it was heartbreaking to hear the stories.”
The 508-unit apartment complex, which is one of the city’s largest affordable housing providers, was highlighted in The Dispatch summer 2020 series of stories about violence in the city. And an in-house study by the Columbus Police Department also identified the area of the apartment complex. as the area of town with the highest probability of getting shot.
Three homicides have taken place at the scene since 2019, according to the complaint, most recently on May 28 when John W. Walker Jr., 68, was found unconscious by officers outside and declared dead at the scene.
In October 2019, Application of the Columbus Code carried out a property inspection and found more than 400 housing code violations, according to the complaint. Violations included bed bugs, rodent and roach infestations, broken utilities, and interior and exterior damage.
Seventy-eight units on the property were inspected again in March, when 182 violations were issued, including for some of the same violations that were found in 2019.
What the city is doing about it
The city reached an agreement with the defendants on April 30, which stipulated several conditions:
- Take over private security forces or contract out special services with the Columbus Police Division
- Remedy the remaining code violations described by Columbus Code Enforcement.
- Embarkation of some 130 vacant accommodation.
- Submit a written plan setting out when exterior code violations will be corrected.
- Addition of a rider to the rental agreement that could result in the eviction of anyone engaging in criminal activity on the property.
The deadline for these stipulations to be met is July 31, Ross said, and a preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for August 3. carried out inspections since the agreement, which means the property manager has not contacted the department.
Meanwhile, residents like Corlinda Wright, 48, who has lived in Colonial Village for three years, are losing patience.
“I would love to see Colonial Village do what they’re supposed to do; I’m tired,” Wright said. “I don’t know what else to do. I have nowhere to go.