DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Dozens of McDougald Terrace tenants raised concerns at Monday night’s city council meeting about the safety of their homes.
Roughly 40 speakers addressed Durham City Council members, many pleading with them to take action to improve the conditions in the city’s public housing facilities.
“Have you ever had to look in your baby’s eyes and fear death because of your living situation?” asked McDougald Terrace tenant Samantha Crowder.
Crowder was one of several parents to speak during the meeting. She said her family doesn’t feel safe in their own home.
Thirteen McDougald Terrace tenants were treated over the last two weeks for high levels of carbon monoxide. Two infants living in the complex have died since November. Durham Housing Authority officials said the babies’ deaths could be linked to the gas.
Brittney Lee is one of the 171 McDougald Terrace tenants who voluntarily evacuated Friday night. DHA placed families in hotels throughout the city.
“Carbon monoxide is a silent killer, so I decided we needed to play it safe and go,” said Lee.
Lee said she was told she could return to her apartment once testing and any repairs are completed in a week, but other tenants said promises of improvements didn’t give them confidence.
“What proof can we have that it’s safe for us to go home? We thought it was safe to live there and apparently it wasn’t,” one resident said during the meeting.
Crowder said others issues like mold and constant leaks in McDougald Terrace are “unfixable.” She said city council members wouldn’t be able to “spend one hour” in her unit.
DHA CEO Anthony Scott said they are bringing in outside contractors to conduct inspections of each unit at McDougald Terrace beginning Tuesday morning. He said inspections and any necessary repairs would take one to two weeks.
However, Scott agreed with tenants that much more needs to be done to improve the city’s public housing facilities.
“We need to rebuild all the public housing facilities. McDougald Terrace, being the oldest, would not be up to standard if it was built today,” said Scott.
DHA’s primarily source of external funding is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Scott said DHA asked local congressmen for any help they can to provide more funding.
Last year, voters approved a $95 million bond that would be combined with other local and federal funding to increase the city’s quality of affordable housing.
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