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East Akron residents form tenant unions, demand changes for low-income housing

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Posted at 5:26 PM, Nov 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-11 18:25:49-05

AKRON, Ohio — Theresa Hoffman lives in the Ericsson Homes in East Akron and says roaches have come into her apartment multiple times over three years.

On Thursday, Hoffman, who is 54 and has chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, pointed out several of the roaches—both crawling and dead—in her kitchen and bathroom.

"Nobody should have to live like this. This is worse than being out on the street," Hoffman said.

She said exterminators have sprayed several times, but the bugs are not going away and she can't afford to move.

"If I have to move, I'll have to just drop everything and start all over," she said.

Keianna Winchester also lives at Ericsson, but in a different building.

However, she also has roaches that she has seen every day since she moved in a few weeks back.

Winchester is also bothered that water has come up from a drain and flooded her laundry room room several times.

"We live in low-income housing. We wouldn't be in low-income housing if we didn't need the help or a boost to get yourself in the path to where we need to go," Winchester said. "For them to treat us less than what we are because we're low-income housing is not fair."

Raymond Greene, the executive director of Freedom BLOC, said his organization got involved with apartment residents to fight for those who are unheard.

Greene said residents at both Ericsson and the nearby Wilbeth Arlington Homes have voiced concerns about rodents, broken windows and other unsafe or unhealthy living conditions.

Freedom BLOC helped people living in both complexes organize tenant unions to push for change.

"This is an everybody problem and we want the people of Akron not to throw these people away like they don't deserve our care and attention," Greene said. "They're not rich, oftentimes don't vote, and therefore, nobody cares about them."

Community Legal Aid, which is representing the tenant unions, sent a demand letter to the management at the apartment complexes.

The demands include inspections by an independent pest control contractor, inspections of all housing units for black mold, and inspections for structural integrity and the repair of walls, windows, doors, and heat and water access.

"There are a lot of units, hundreds of units in each development, and one voice isn't going to be allowed, but if you have lots of voices coming together united, it's a much louder voice," said Andrew Neuhauser, an attorney with Community Legal Aid.

While in the neighborhood, a News 5 crew noticed roof repair work being done at an Ericsson building and other exterior repair work at Wilbeth Arlington Homes.

News 5 reached out to the management at the buildings for comment. The request was forwarded to the owner, but a statement was not made available as of Thursday evening.

However, a manager told our news partner at the Akron Beacon Journal that the properties are undergoing extensive rehabs and a pest control company is addressing any known issues.

In the meantime, residents speaking out hope conditions improve in their apartments soon.

"I hope that we can make a difference and help change things to make it better," Winchester said.