LHC: Improvements Coming to Washington Ave.

The executive director of the Lansing Housing Commission says she thinks things are always improving at the apartment complex on S. Washington Ave., but that doesn't mean there isn't more work to be done.

"I think that things have improved, at least the things we have full control over," said Executive Director Patricia Baines-Lake. "What we don't have control over are when residents choose to allow people who don't live in the building to come in and out. When I talk about challenges, I'm really talking about the challenges that every manager of multi-family housing faces when there is one central entry way."

The Housing Commission asked News 10 to follow up on a story it did May 24, after a tenant complained of dirt, incomplete flooring and a filthy trash room. The LHC says it has cleaned up.

"We mop our hallways on a regular basis, we pick up trash around the outside of the building," said Baines-Lake. "So when I say that we're constantly trying to improve, one of the things is just the routine maintenance of a building that has this many occupants and one entrance is a challenge."

News 10 got a second tour of the 55-year-old apartment complex Tuesday and found some noticeable improvements. The hallway flooring had been installed and the trash room was noticeably cleaner. There is also a plan being discussed that would ask residents to put their trash outside rather than in trash rooms. All units ready for move-in appeared clean.

But several tenants stopped the tour to raise complaints, one man asking why his trash room was still dirty before saying "people ain't doing their jobs around here." Others mumbled that things only get cleaned up when news crews show up or when an inspection date nears. (The Department of Housing and Urban Development is scheduled to inspect the apartment building Wednesday.) Another resident said it was a "terrible place to live."

"We need to be helped in this building; we need a lot of help in this building," said Jalisa Martin, a tenant. "There's a lot of young people who have kids. I feel bad for them. There's a lot of elderly people who shouldn't have to live like they live here."

Multiple residents complained of dirty conditions, poor security and slow responses to issues the residents raised.

Janise Gardner has lived in the Washington Ave. complex since November 2012. In May she complained she had bed bugs. She says it took management two months to do anything about it.

"They gave me a slip that told me they would be coming in around the middle of June and they never did," she said, showing arms and legs blanketed in bed bug bites. "It shouldn't take two months. It took two months. [The number of bites] would have been a few if they would have done it when I first told them about it."

A $163,000 improvement to a community gathering room has yet to be completed after a crew found asbestos in the tiling, which it must eradicate before proceeding.

The LHC also gives some blame to funding cuts from the federal sequester, which it says has diminished its funding by ten percent.

"[Change] is coming," said Tony Baltimore, an LHC commissioner. "It's a slow process but it's coming."

Patricia Baines-Lake says the LHC could use help from its residents to speed the process along.

"I think we have some excellent residents," she said. "But we have a few that we need to convince that this is your home and as your home you need to help us to make it better and keep it as good as we can. Without the the 100 percent cooperation of the residents, it is very difficult to make the building the best that it can be."

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