City order surprises tenants
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 28, 2005 1:51 PM
The sound of staples driving through vinyl siding stirred the tenants of Wayne-East Apartments Thursday morning.
Christopher Boykin wasn’t feeling well, but heard the noise coming from outside, got up and opened his apartment door.
“Condemned?” he asked after reading the sign posted on the side of his building.
Despite an official ruling from the City Council Monday condemning the apartment complex located at 300 Randall Lane, tenants said they were told by their landlord not to worry, and that they would not be forced to leave their homes as long as rent was paid on time.
As Goldsboro minimum housing inspector Thomas Pridgen finished posting signs that read “This building is CONDEMNED” on each of the three apartment buildings located in the complex, another letter hung from tenants’ doors.
“This says that what was in the paper does not affect our apartments,” Angela Armstrong said.
Ms. Armstrong said she has lived in the complex longer than anyone and added that this is not the first time there has been a question concerning what the landlord, Calvin Hodgin, has said concerning the apartments. She said Hodgin posted letters for all tenants assuring them they would be allowed to remain in their apartments, and advising them not to believe a recent newspaper story detailing city condemnation procedures.
The letter reads, “This letter is to address some of the issues that you may have heard about or read about in the newspaper. The controversy that you may have heard about does not affect your apartment. The controversy concerning renewal of a repair permit to extend vinyl siding and new windows to the rear of the buildings has been resolved. You may be assured that as long as you meet your obligations for the apartment, you will not be required to move. If you are told anything or receive any correspondence that is different than this message, please call or come by the office.”
Hodgin signed the letter.
Armstrong said she couldn’t believe that her landlord was collecting rent from the tenants while keeping them in the dark about the building’s future.
“He’s watching us bleed so he can make money,” she said.
Monday, the City Council condemned the apartments, citing bad wiring, rotten wood, flood damage and holes in the parking lot and walls as reasons for the order.
Ed Cianfarra, Goldsboro’s chief building inspector said the property owner had been given multiple warnings and ample time to bring the complex up to code and failed to do so.
The landlord had applied for the repair permit, but was denied because of past inactivity, Cianfarra said Monday.
Early reports from city officials indicated that Hodgin owned the buildings and would be billed for the demolition of the construct.
“My understanding for a long time was that Mr. Hodgin was the owner,” Mayor Al King said.
King added that earlier this week, he met with Hodgin and Mike Pate, who are both listed in city records as contacts for the property. Cianfarra said, however, that Hodgin is listed as the primary contact for the building and is, therefore, responsible for it.
The two men assured the mayor at that meeting that the problems that led to the condemnation order would be fixed if the council gave them more time.
In the past, councilmen have granted property owners a 60- to 90-day extension to bring condemned buildings in similar condition up to code. While King indicated that no extension has been given and the order to condemn and demolish stands, the matter will be on the agenda for discussion at the next council meeting.
“Right now, the building has officially been condemned,” King said. “And we (City Council) are going to attack every building in this city that is in the condition that one’s in.”
In the meantime, tenants like Charles Brown say they are left to worry about where to live and how to provide a home for their children if the extension request is denied.
“We’re still in limbo here,” Brown said. “We see these problems and know in our hearts that they can’t get this place fixed up in 60 days.”
William Kornegay lives in one of the apartments with his five children. He said he had no idea that he was living below minimum housing standards set by the state.
“I can’t believe this,” Kornegay said. “I have no other place to go, and five kids to worry about.”
Kornegay also said that despite reports from the city that only four of the apartments were occupied, the number is actually nine or 10, with close to 20 staying in the complex at various times.
Cianfarra attributes this to a failure on the part of tenants to file with the city.
“We were sure of four of them,” Cianfarra said. “There may be more, but we had not had any contact from additional tenants this year.”
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