Land Use
 

Company late on repairs to public housing damaged by Isaac

Three months after Hurricane Isaac drenched New Orleans, some rental units damaged by the storm remained unrepaired at The Estates, the housing development on the site of the old Desire housing project.

All 425 units at The Estates suffered water and other storm damage. The Housing Authority of New Orleans gave the management company, Interstate Realty Management, until Nov. 30 to repair the apartments. The company missed the deadline and still had not finished the work as of Tuesday.

David Gilmore, the head of the Housing Authority, “is really not happy with the progress,” spokeswoman Lesley Thomas said Tuesday.

“He’s kind of feeling that the management company has thumbed their nose at him, so his plans now are to start with the most severe punishment and to work his way backwards.”

She said the agency was “determining what enforcement measures to make.”

The Lens doesn’t know how many units remain unrepaired; Interstate Realty Management did not respond to The Lens’ questions about that and other issues.

The Estates, built after Katrina in the Desire area in the Upper Ninth Ward, stands in an out-of-the way area near the Industrial Canal. Residents told The Lens they’ve had problems with construction quality.

Sylvia Norman said that even after her apartment was repaired, water occasionally seeps under her back door, flooding her kitchen. She had to buy a new dryer and put the washer and dryer up on wooden pallets. On Nov. 28, a black garbage bag was jammed into the bottom of her back door and topped with towels to keep water out of her kitchen.

A community development organization, CDC 58:12, discovered the extent of the damage and the issues facing tenants shortly after it began working with the community in October. CDC 58:12 contracts with the Housing Authority to provide social support services to The Estates’ tenants.

Residents complained of mold growing in their homes after Isaac, according to emails obtained from the Housing Authority. Some residents, like Dorothy Jefferson, told The Louisiana Weekly that gaping holes were left in the walls while the work was being done, allowing insects and rodents to enter.

As of Dec. 6, strips of blue tarp covered missing segments of siding on several houses.

One resident, a stay-at-home mother of four, told The Lens that repairs to her home were not completed by the Nov. 30 deadline, but they were finished the following Monday. (Fearing retaliation, she wouldn’t give her name for publication.)

Interviews with residents found that the majority whose homes had been fixed were satisfied with the work.

Norman was an exception. She said a statue, the “prized possession” of a deceased child, was broken by workers. Workers damaged her television cable, spurring an $85 repair. And the dehumidifiers used to dry out her apartment raised her power bill by $100.

“A hundred dollars extra out of my budget means I don’t have any pocket money,” Norman said. She said she gave copies of the bills to CDC 58:12 so she could be reimbursed.

Asked if the agency would reimburse expenses such as Norman’s, Thomas said the legal department was reviewing the matter.

 

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