Following blizzard, housing complex fails inspection

Plagued by leaky roofs, Church Street South is reputed to be one of New Haven’s most poorly maintained housing complexes.
Plagued by leaky roofs, Church Street South is reputed to be one of New Haven’s most poorly maintained housing complexes. Photo by Carly Lovejoy.

Church Street South, a publicly subsidized and privately owned housing structure in New Haven, is in a maintenance disarray, with more than half of the complex’s housing units failing public inspections last Wednesday.

Inspectors from the Livable City Initiative, which aims to enforce the city’s housing code, surveyed the housing complex because they were concerned that ongoing problems with leaky roofs would be exacerbated by the recent snowstorm, said Rafael Ramos, the deputy director of Housing Code Enforcement. Ultimately the inspectors found several additional housing code violations, including roofs that suffered from water penetration and windows that let in water and drafts, Ramos said. In addition, city inspectors reported additional violations that led to about 60 percent of the housing units, which are owned by Northland Investment Corporation, failing inspections.

“In the past, Church Street South has always had a problem with roofs and roof leaks, and so because of the heavy snowstorm, we thought it would be good to see what’s going on there so we don’t have any surprises later,” Ramos said.

Northland Investment Corporation, a real estate company that deals with properties along the East Coast and the South, could not be reached for comment.

Drew Morrison ’14, who has worked to help map the quality of New Haven public housing, said that Church Street South has historically had problems and that Northland Investment Corporation has previously had financial difficulties.

While Morrison said that all public housing in New Haven faces problems of maintenance and crime, Church Street South is “clearly one of the big areas of blight” in New Haven. He said that while many other public housing units have been redeveloped in the past two decades, Church Street South has not, and the failure rate of its units is not a “surprising” outcome.

“Everyone knows that Church Street South is eventually going to be redeveloped: It’s in a prime location across from the train station, it’s old and it’s falling apart, so there’s very little incentive to put lots of money to keeping Church Street South of a decent quality if they know that it’s going to be torn down in a couple of years,” Morrison said.

City Hall spokeswoman Anna Mariotti added that the inspectors found problems with electrical outlets that were uncovered and low to the ground, which pose danger especially in rooms for children. Ramos added that other problems included missing or defective smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Broken carbon monoxide detectors are nothing new for these housing units, Ramos said, as the Church Street South housing complex faced similar issues about two years ago.

“A couple of families were hospitalized and the whole building was vacated, and then it was found that most -— around 90 percent — of all the heating systems were defective and in some way didn’t provide for proper ventilation,” Ramos said.

Ramos said that as of Wednesday afternoon, inspectors and the Livable City Initiative were preparing a report with the different violations and recommendations for the property owners.

For issues like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, Ramos said property owners should be replacing broken equipment almost immediately. For other issues, such as leaky roofs and problems with windows, property owners will have 21 days to start making improvements, he said.

The Livable City Initiative aims to provide affordable and quality housing for New Haven residents and design public improvements to facilitate healthier and safer communities.

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