Tenants of Johnston complex could begin moving back in this weekend


JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Unless inspectors at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development head to the Park Plaza Apartments, tenants of the Johnston property will start moving in Saturday.

The federally-subsidized apartments, owned by Stay Away From the Cans LLC, has been cleaned for the last 10 months to remove mold from the property. During the clean-up, residents have been staying at hotels at the property owners expense.

Attorneys for the residents have argued even if the mold is gone, there are other issues with the building. They gave Eyewitness News a tour of their units earlier this month showing holes in walls and the floor.

In court, the attorney for the owner said those are punch-list items that can be addressed after residents move back in.

Municipal Judge Jacqueline Grasso at first appeared to side with the residents arguing the town should wait until HUD officials inspect the property before allowing residents to live there again.

“There are a slew of other issues,” Judge Grasso said. “I know it doesn’t have any relation to the mold but we have minimum housing standards in this town.”

After some confusion on whether or not HUD needs to inspect the property, Grasso ruled residents can move back in Saturday morning unless if HUD officials announce intentions to inspect. By Wednesday afternoon that had not happened.

A spokesperson for HUD though told Eyewitness News they are planning to send inspectors to the property.

Residents are concerned once they move back in, the owners won’t fix the problems as promised, which the owner disputes.

In one instance, the ceiling and wall were separating, allowing daylight to shine into the building. In another tenants apartment that was given a certificate of habitability by the town of Johnston, the tub and sink were covered in building materials.

Stay Away From the Cans LLC is party owned by a $400 million company that owns Section 8 housing nationally, called BLVD Capital.

Eyewitness News uncovered dozens of violations and issues linked to the company.

For instance, as BLVD was closing on 8 properties in Toledo, Ohio last year, U.S. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur wrote to HUD that the residents were “right to sound the alarm” on BLVD.

The Lucas County Land Bank wrote BLVD, “…demonstrated an ongoing disregard for the safety, health and well-being of the tenants of these projects.”

Officials in another city in Ohio condemned one of BLVD’s apartment complex’s because of 800 outstanding work orders. The city of Cincinnati documented several violations that weren’t fixed after several months of inspections.

The attorney for BLVD Capital said those issues are due to problems with previous on-site management at those facilities. He said BLVD has since hired new management and the problems have been addressed.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed who sits on the sub-committee on housing said residents should not be forced to return to unsafe units.

A spokesperson said, “Senator Reed contacted HUD to ensure they are closely monitoring health and safety concerns at the Park Plaza Apartments and holding landlords accountable.”

Attorneys for the residents filed a lawsuit in Superior Court seeking damages.

The owner’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment on that lawsuit.

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