Storm-damaged rentals await fixes

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.”

In­ter­state Re­alty Man­age­ment did not re­spond to questions about how many units remain unrepaired 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 said 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 Thursday, strips of blue tarp cov­ered miss­ing seg­ments of sid­ing on sev­eral houses.

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.

This story was published in cooperation with the Internet news site The Lens, http://www.thelensnola.org