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City Heights Refugees Cope With Substandard Housing

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Those hit hardest by San Diego's affordable housing crisis are often from the most vulnerable communities. Some feel they must accept unsanitary living conditions or lose their home.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Those hit hardest by San Diego's affordable housing crisis are often in the most vulnerable communities. Some feel they must accept unsanitary living conditions or lose their home, but what can be done about it? KPBS reporter pre Sri, either visit city heights where a few families are finding the resources to fight back up at noon by noon. Judy,

Speaker 2: 00:22 Oh, Lulu Crescendo. He came to the United States as a refugee from Congo four years ago with his wife and six children.

Speaker 3: 00:30 [inaudible] good America. I left my country to come to the u s because the mind, mind militia was hunting me

Speaker 2: 00:35 after a temporary stay at a refugee camp in Burundi, the [inaudible] ended up in San Diego. [inaudible] I felt very happy that I would get to live in peace in a away from those people that were hunting mines. No, but sadly, their problems didn't end there. Last year, the family moved into this home in city heights, their third home since resettling in the United States.

Speaker 3: 00:59 Do you mind if we do a tour of the house?

Speaker 2: 01:01 Since then? They've dealt with a broken window in their daughter's bedroom, mold in their son's bedroom, no trash bans and the worst of it all. Too much cockroach. Yeah. Oh, cockroach infestation.

Speaker 3: 01:15 Maybe we will do when we're cooking, they crawl into food. When we put the food on a plate and step away for a second to grab something out of the room, they'll find them crawling onto the plate. So you can see these are really unusable.

Speaker 2: 01:27 They say they've made numerous complaints to their property management company, prime asset management. But instead of addressing their complaints, the company began eviction proceedings against the Kush indies. They're among at least a half a dozen families who've said they're living in substandard properties, managed by prime asset management, tenants rights lawyer. Dan Lyrical is representing three of the families.

Speaker 3: 01:51 There is no doubt in my mind that the complaints that complaints had been made in this case about these problems, just the response was inadequate. Um, and now what we're hearing from management after these issues have been raised again, now that I've been involved is we never knew anything about this. And that's not true.

Speaker 2: 02:09 We reached out to the company's president, Jim Purdy, who said that he's unable to respond to questions due to pending litigation. Lyrical says tenants have more rights than they think they do, but they need to know the law.

Speaker 3: 02:23 California law would respect the tenant's decision to withhold rent if the repairs aren't being made, but it's something that needs to be done very carefully because you want to make sure that as a tenant that whatever problem is not being repaired is a serious violation of the warranty of habitability.

Speaker 2: 02:43 Another place to turn is San Diego's Code Enforcement Division. Tenants can make a complaint to the city by phone, online or in person. A building inspector will come do a home inspection about one to five days after you filed a complaint. Based on the seriousness of the case, Leslie Sennett is the deputy director of the city's Code Enforcement Division,

Speaker 4: 03:06 so we have three levels of priorities and our first priority is imminent health and safety for the next level of substandard conditions including mold vectors. We're going to respond within five working days.

Speaker 2: 03:18 She says, once an inspector identifies the violation, they will contact the property owner to issue a notice of violation or an administrative citation. The property owner then has a certain amount of time, anywhere from a week to a month to bring the property into compliance. Depending on the seriousness of the violation, if the property owner doesn't make the necessary changes or repairs, the case can be forwarded to the city attorney's office. Senate says at any given time in San Diego, there are about 3,500 open code enforcement cases being worked by 15 inspectors back in city heights. A Lulu [inaudible] speaks philosophically of his struggles. [inaudible] see what the reality is, but I just have to love and live in this country that gives me peace. [inaudible] he hopes that with help, he'll be able to find some resolution with his housing problems. Pria, Sri, there k PBS news.

Speaker 5: 04:27 [inaudible].

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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.