Report: NOLA renters face unsafe conditions - FOX 8, WVUE, fox8live.com, weather, app, news, saints

Report: NOLA renters face unsafe conditions

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The city of New Orleans has a growing number of renters, but many are being shortchanged in terms of safe housing conditions, according to a new report and a coalition of community organizations calling on city government to crackdown on negligent landlords.

"Every time it rained, it rained in my house,” said Aimee Struble.

She said she experienced "rental blues" because her then-landlord refused to repair a leaky roof at the Harmony Street residence she was renting.

“It was a shotgun, and so most of my items were damaged from mold,” said Struble.

She paid $825 a month, but said her complaints fell on deaf ears. Eventually she got assistance from Loyola's Law Clinic and took her landlord to court for damages suffered. She said she won the case this past spring.

Apparently thousands of other renters are facing unhealthy living conditions, despite paying sizeable rent.

"Rents are going up continuously, but housing quality is not being addressed at the same time,” said Kate Scott, Assistant Director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.

GNOFHAC is one of the organizations that analyzed rental housing data from the U.S. Census Bureau, HUD, and results of a recent telephone survey of local renters.

“Overall, 55 percent of New Orleanians are renters,” said Scott.

She said many renters who want out of bad housing are forced to make the difficult choice of breaking their leases and facing financial penalties as a result.

“We get complaints all the time over the phone of people who have tried to call Code Enforcement, didn't have their calls returned, nothing ever happened,” continued Scott.

GNOHAC said estimates from the American Housing Survey show that 78 percent of rental units needed major repairs at some point during the past year.

Here are examples of the problems according to the GNOHAC report.

--2,350 units lacked a working bathroom at some point in the three previous

months.

--1,200 units lacked complete kitchen facilities.

--1,900 units lacked complete plumbing facilities.

--6,850 units experienced water leakage from the inside of the structure.

--5,300 units experienced water leakage from the outside of the structure.

--1,770 units had mold in the previous year.

--5,450 units did not have a working smoke detector.

--7,150 units had signs of rodents in the previous year

“Things that present real dangers to families that are living in these buildings,” said Scott.

And the problems are faced by renters of all income levels.

“Over half of the middle class in this city are renters,” said Scott.

And according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, the median gross rent last year was $925 a month.

“You see that all around the country. Cities struggle with the issue of housing quality, and what we need in New Orleans is for our leaders to come together and find a way to address it that works for New Orleans,” said Scott.

"The city needs to really start looking at rental properties,” said Struble.

A City Hall spokesman issued the following statement:

“As the City continues to prioritize accessible and affordable rental housing, it is equally as important that these units be up to code and safe to occupy. We are committed to maximizing the resources available to promote affordable housing options and strengthen our enforcement while the city continues to see major investment and increase in property values.”

Renters should report code violations through the city's 311 phone system. The New Orleans Fire Department also has a free smoke detector installation program.

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