Hattiesburg apartments in shambles, defaults on loan - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Hattiesburg apartments in shambles, defaults on loan

By Mike McDaniel - bio | email | Twitter

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - "They need completely remodeling, those apartments are 40 years old," said Janette Smith, who admits, Francis Street Apartments in Hattiesburg need a lot of work.

She's a former manager and one of the current owners of the complex.

"Down here where the toilet is at, if you move that, if you move that you can see (a hole) and that's been like that since I been here as well," said Lashandra Gaines who is one of the tenants who says in the almost two years she's called 4B home, little to nothing has been done.

"I want my apartment fixed. I mean, I pay my rent so I'm not understanding why I can't get nothing fixed," said Gaines.

Other tenants are complaining as well, from falling ceilings to appliances that don't work.

The apartments are owned by the non-profit Hattiesburg Association of Civic Improvement and are part of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development program, known as HUD. 

When Hurricane Katrina hit, Smith says the damage put the complex where it is today, classified as a troubled property.

"After that we had a lot of repairs to do. Just out of the pocket to bring them up to standards," said Smith.

Smith says all of the reserve funds were spent trying to do so, but it still hasn't happened, and the apartments have yet to pass an inspection by HUD since the storm. HUD pays about 70 percent of the tenants rent, but when it comes to the bottom line, Smith says the monthly payments are only enough to cover basic operating costs.

"Stuff comes down," said Gaines, pointing to a warped ceiling over her bathtub. To tenants like Gaines, who says she's told her problems are not a priority, it's still no excuse.

"O don't understand why it's not a priority when there's holes in my ceiling and by my toilet. That's a priority to me," said Smith.

"For the tenants to think that we're not caring. We would have allowed HUD to just vacate the whole building. They could have done that. We were that far defaulted in our loan," said Smith.

In fact, Smith says the complex is currently about $90,000 defaulted in their mortgage loan because of the amount of work needed after Katrina. The complex is now being turned over to an out of state company in hopes of investing the money needed to keep it up.

Smith says improvements are on the way and some tenant complaints are unwarranted.

"It's the young people that come in. They think that the government owes them something. Government don't owe you nothing," said Smith.

The new company, out of Michigan could not be reached for comment.

©2009 WDAM. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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