Protesters call for better living conditions in Durham public housing

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – From leaky pipes to bulging ceilings, families and advocates voiced their concerns about living conditions in public housing complexes in Durham during a protest on Wednesday afternoon.

Officials with the Durham Housing Authority said they hear the residents’ concerns and they are taking steps to address a backlog of work orders by creating a maintenance hotline and hiring more repairmen. Protesters said that, in the meantime, families are still dealing with rats, holes in their ceilings, and appliances that don’t always work.

Protesters said these families filed work orders months ago and these issues have still not been addressed.

“Why should they continue to pay rent if they’re living in these conditions,” asked Sheryl Smith, an advocate from Durham.

The protesters are demanding the Durham Housing Authority provide a weekly report to the community that details the repairs done at these apartments.

Kaya Bowling lives in the Hoover Road public housing complex. On Wednesday, she showed CBS 17 black residue in her vents.

“We’re breathing the stuff that’s up there and I’m not OK with it,” Bowling said. “It’s nasty just looking at it right here.”

Bowling also showed that several electrical sockets in her home don’t work and there is a sewage smell coming from her cabinets.

According to paperwork that Bowling showed CBS 17 from the city of Durham’s Neighborhood Improvement Services Department, inspectors found seven violations in her apartment.

“I’m tired of having to live the way we have to live. It’s unsafe and it’s not OK,” Bowling said. “Y’all aren’t living like that.”

Last week, Durham Housing Authority CEO Anthony Scott said they do have a backlog of hundreds of work orders and they found that in some instances the work orders were not being tracked properly. That’s why he said they are planning to contract with a call service and create a maintenance hotline that will allow them to keep better track of work orders.

In addition, he said they hired 30 to 35 temporary repairmen to help them get caught up on repairs. In the meantime, families argue they are still dealing with these issues and they say they don’t feel safe.

“I mean I know stuff takes time with this coronavirus going on, but when it’s stuff like leaks coming from the ceiling and we’ve got electrical problems, this stuff is important because anything can happen at any moment,” Bowling said.

CBS 17 reached out to Scott on Wednesday about these protesters’ demands for weekly reports on repairs, but has not yet received a response.

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