KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Residents at a low-income housing complex in Knoxville have raised some serious issues about their living conditions. They say there are problems with security, elevators don’t work, and there is mold and water leaks inside apartments.
In Knoxville, and other areas of east Tennessee, there are apartment communities that offer reduced rent to people with low income and they receive federal housing vouchers. One of those complexes is Morningside Gardens. While it’s operated by a private company, the federal government has oversight.
Gwen McClendon was one of several residents who wanted WATE to see firsthand what she and others are concerned about at the Morningside Gardens complex in East Knoxville. She said the hole in her kitchen ceiling has never been repaired when water leaked down the wall above her sink. In her bedroom closet, ceiling tiles have never been replaced and the disabled fire alarm has never been fixed.
“I got mice that’s in my bed. The bathroom light doesn’t work, the apartment leaks everywhere. There’s black mold in my house. It’s horrible,” said another resident, Amy Williams.
In her apartment, she pointed out water leaks in the ceiling of her unit.
“That’s mold and all of them leaks and stuff in the corner under my blinds and all the way across and it leaks and every time it rains,” said Williams. “We only got one maintenance guy. He does do the best that he can. He does his job. It’s the property management and the corporate office’s fault to me.”
Millennia Management out of Ohio operates the Morningside Gardens Apartments. A couple of hundred people who need affordable housing live in the 45-year-old apartment community that has seven buildings.
“I’ve been here about seven or eight years. This place ain’t ever been like this, never,” said resident Johnny Town.
For example, doors to some of the buildings are broken and don’t lock.
“Door handle is missing, it’s ajar. It does not securely lock. Even if you use that, you don’t need to. It literally is broke,” said Billy, who chose not to share his last name.
A security camera in the building had its lens painted over. There are elevators that don’t work, yet people are in wheelchairs.
“We still can’t wash because the water spills onto the floor, so there is no washing period,” said Judy Pelcher.
In one of the laundry areas, a washing machine is out of order. Pelcher showed us another machine that doesn’t work either. The water hose to it is disconnected.
Pelcher has another issue; mailboxes that are unsecured. Many have no doors leaving mail vulnerable to theft. She said it wasn’t until last week that mail delivery was resumed in her building.
“The mailman said, the elevator had been down for two months, there was no lighting in the hallway so he said he was not going to deliver. Also, a lot of boxes were opened or destroyed,” said Pelcher.
Several of those WATE talked with said they can’t afford to live anywhere else. While they’re grateful to have an affordable government-subsidized apartment, they’d like to see repairs made within a reasonable amount of time once the problems are made known to management.
WATE’s Don Dare contacted Millennia. In a two-page note response, Millennia said: “the buildings are aging and some equipment has reached the end of its useful life… long-term plans are in place for the substantial rehabilitation of the apartment community.”
The company adds “a veteran property manager was recently assigned and efforts are underway to address many of the conditions we have noted”
Millennia shared that two elevators have recently been overhauled, but are not operating because repairmen are waiting on essential parts. Missing mailbox doors are currently being re-fabricated, we were told. Millennia adds security doors have been repaired numerous times, but vandalism continues to be an issue.
“You just want a better and safer place?” asked Dare.
“Yes, that’s what I want. For everybody over here, just not only me, everybody,” said Pelcher.
Millennia also told WATE there are five leaky hot water tanks inside units that need to be replaced, they are on order. The company says there are open maintenance positions to beef up the maintenance department.
Local management has recently started distributing weekly maintenance notices to residents. Earlier this month, Millennia said it signed a contract with the Knoxville Police Department to pursue any criminal activity on the property.
In a statement sent to WATE, A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development representative said all repairs are required to be made under the housing assistance contract to ensure safe and sanity conditions for residents.