I-TEAM: Tenants’ Union presents list of demands to Hartford City Council, Mayor to fix housing code enforcement issues
HARTFORD, Conn. (WFSB) - On Monday night, tenants from across the City of Hartford met with the Mayor, City Council and housing officials to discuss the demands they have, demands they say will make their living situations better.
Many of the renters say they’ve been battling problems within their apartments for years, and they feel landlords and property management companies are getting away with it, all while raising the rent.
The I-Team has been digging into this issue for months, recently publishing an investigation into out-of-state landlords, tenants say are escaping accountability for “unsafe and unsanitary” living conditions.
At the Goodwin Memorial Branch of the Hartford Public Library Monday night, members of the Avalon, Maple and Wethersfield Tenant unions told city council members, Mayor Luke Bronin and housing officials, what it’s like to live like them.
“Would you let your child live in this condition? Will you live in them? Roaches, rats, anything you can think of?” said one tenant living on Wethersfield Avenue, who did not want to be named for fear of retaliation. “No one should feel like they’re not being heard. I walk into the building; our door is broken as we speak. Anyone can walk through our building. You come into dirty hallways, they smell so bad because you have people defecating in the hallway,” said another, who lives at 887 Asylum Avenue. “I got cracked walls, I got roaches, I got mice, I got it all,” said Marcela. She lives on May Street. Her rent was recently raised, and now her landlord is telling her tenants will need to start paying $75 a month for parking. “You allow these people to come from New Jersey, from everywhere, to buy buildings in CT and they want to do what they do in New York. This is not New York.”
This meeting is a part of a continuing conversation between the unions and the city.
Tenants have long felt their complaints to the city go nowhere, and their landlords, many of them from out of state, don’t have to answer for the problems. Yet, they continue to raise rent.
“It’s not fair when people make complaints and it takes forever for a response and action to be taken. The landlord waits and pushes everyone out, and hopefully when the resident leaves the building the complaint dies when they leave,” says Dave Richardson, who lives at 105 Sherbrooke Avenue. That address is one of the many the I-Team has been investigating.
DEMANDS FOR THE CITY:
Tenants also made demands, demands that include code enforcement inspecting the entire building at one time, not just individual units, since many of the tenants say they experience the same problems.
They also asked for more timely updates about where their complaints stand and more Fair Rent commission hearings. Mayor Luke Bronin addressed the crowd, thanking them for their fair and reasonable demands. He introduced all of the city housing officials and followed with a promise. “They are working hard to change the pattern that you describe, and I know why you are frustrated and impatient and you have every right to be,” said Mayor Luke Bronin. Bronin told the tenants one million dollars has been set aside for a city repair fund, which would allow the city to come in and fix repairs right away. Landlords will then pay the city back.
He said the city is currently working on a dashboard which would give real time information to tenants, on where their complaints stand. But the new system will not get going until at least May.
He acknowledged the city’s current housing “system” is not working as it should.
“We will do everything we can to hold landlords’ feet to the fire and use every tool we can to put pressure on them to do what they need to do,” said Bronin.
City Council President Maly Rosado and City Councilor Josh Michtom agreed.
He also said code enforcement would do group inspections, as requested, and the Fair Rent Commission will also increase their number of meetings, among other things. Tenants say it’s a start. They want more accountability for landlords. “Make the landlord more liable for the incompetence,” said one tenant.
“They don’t communicate with you; you’re supposed to have trust with your landlord. I can reach out again, follow up, follow up, follow up and it never matters. That I get pushed aside,” said another.
The unions are planning on expanding their reach, working with other tenants’ unions across the state to lobby for the State Legislature to put a cap on rent raises.
They want to restrict landlords from raising the rent by more than 3% a year.
Tuesday, the I-Team sits down with Hartford’s Director of Housing Code Enforcement.
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