Apartment residents in a section of Hartford’s North End got some good news Thursday regarding their poor living conditions. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development said it would terminate a New York landlord’s Section 8 contract to provide subsidized housing to the tenants of the Clay Arsenal Renaissance Apartments.
Emmanuel Ku owns the 26 buildings that make up Clay Arsenal’s 150 units.
“It has been bad for some time and a lot of people say it’s been bad since we moved in, and I won’t argue that,” said tenant Joshua Serrano. “But what I would say is, ever since Emmanuel Ku personally took over as owner, this is the worst that it has been.”
Serrano had lived at Clay Arsenal for a few years before Ku took over the apartments in 2011 and was relocated this past winter to No. 24 on Center Street because the conditions at his previous spot were much worse. Landlords must maintain a standard of decent, safe, and sanitary subsidized housing for their tenants. Serrano said it’s anything but.
“As soon as I moved in, I didn’t have [a] heater,” Serrano said. “So you can just imagine how frustrating that was for me to be fighting for basic needs over there at 1545 [Main Street], to be moved to a unit that they say is ready and up-to-par, and then come to find out we don’t even got basic necessities [such] as heat working.”
Rhonda Siciliano, a spokesperson for HUD, said that ending its agreement with Ku was a last resort.
“We’ve been trying to work with the owner for about a year now to correct these deficiencies, even sending out some technical assistance to help out with the rodent infestations that we saw there,” Siciliano said. “But unfortunately, the owner has not taken all the actions needed to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing for the residents and that’s unfortunate.”
Besides having a big rodent problem, Siciliano said the department and city officials have found numerous violations during inspection including extensive mold and issues with the fire code.
“The owner had actually identified more than 2,000 items that needed to be corrected,” Siciliano said.
HUD will give residents 15 days to make comments about Ku’s termination. HUD will then actually move to terminate the contract and begin talking to tenants about relocating them with their vouchers to better housing. Residents will be issued “Tenant Protection Vouchers” and can take them out of state if necessary. They might even be given some money if they need to relocate.
“Even though I was born and raised here in Hartford and I would like to continue residency here and continue helping our residents here in Hartford, at this point, we can’t be choosers, right?” Serrano said. “We’re getting taken from these horrendous living conditions. Anywhere else would be better than this.”
After having no heater to help him out with cold temperatures in the winter, Serrano said his next apartment should have natural air to keep him cool in the summer. But with it taking 60 to 90 days for tenants to be informed of an initial meeting with a HUD representative, it could take a while for Serrano to get a new place.