Friday, September 26, 2014

Substandard Housing in Manchester, NH

The peeling lead paint from the railing falls on the steps, where it travels into apartments where children live. 

Union Leader reporter Mark Hayward  has a story in today's paper about a building in Manchester that was declared unfit for human habitation:

Nearly a month after Manchester building officials deemed an apartment building unfit for human habitation, several residents remained stranded there Thursday, including some parents with children.
They expressed anger and said they’ve received no direction from the city, which placed a notice on the front door of 405 Manchester St. on Aug. 27.

The water was shut off on September 11. The city can't find Paul Schaefer, the owner of the building. In the story we learn that there was someone living in the building who collected the rent. They left when the notice went up.
The most disturbing part of this story is the way the city is pretending they knew nothing:
Planning and Community Development Director Leon LaFreniere said he only found out about the situation that afternoon. His signature is stamped on the Aug. 27 notice, which declares the building “unsafe” and warns it is unlawful for anyone to enter.

Mayor Ted Gatsas said no one told him about the situation. He said Sept. 11 seems a long time to live without access to running water.

“That’s a good question. I don’t know why they’re still there,” said Gatsas, who spoke to a reporter Wednesday evening.

No one should be living in these conditions. 

The building at 405 Manchester St. had a certificate of compliance on file at City Hall that expired in May of 2014. If the standards for compliance had been stringently enforced, could a building deteriorate so much in a 3 year period that it was declared uninhabitable? Is three years too long a period to go between inspections? 
For some landlords, it most certainly is. 
The Granite State Organizing Project published a report on substandard housing in Manchester, earlier this year. I was hired as a consultant to the project, and I'm the primary author of the report. We found that "repairs" often consisted of replacing stained ceiling tiles in bathrooms, as opposed to actually fixing leaky pipes. One landlord, Mohammad Mobeen, is on the State of NH's list of lead abatement contractors, yet owns a building where there have been child lead poisonings, and other buildings where the peeling lead paint on the outside of the building is visible. 

Families with children live in these buildings. No one should be living in these conditions. 

It's my view that the City  has ignored the housing issue for decades. This situation at 405 Manchester St. will happen again and again until the City makes the decision to take the problem seriously. 


Anonymous said...

Manchester has some major problems. It is not a city without a poor reputation. I know of a couple of people who are desperate to get out of there. A disgrace. I thought slum lords were a thing of the 1970's but it seems we consistently live in a "back to the future" cycle in everything.

Peadar said...

This town needs an enema.

I wish this were an isolated incident; it's not.

In fact, this is just a symptom of the endemic rot in Manchester's political and business culture. Gatsas has nothing but contempt for those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder and will never exert himself in any way on their behalf.

Lafreniere is completely useless. The Planning Department consistently refuses to go after problem landlords, instead focusing its energy on bullying small business owners. I have heard from people who have had problems with Leon's inspectors and been told that hiring the "right contractor" would make the problem disappear.