Nightmare on Elm Grove III

Big changes are already underway at the apartments near the Baton Rouge Metro Airport. (Rick Portier, WAFB)
Big changes are already underway at the apartments near the Baton Rouge Metro Airport. (Rick Portier, WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A housing nightmare 9News Investigators exposed at a government-funded complex has been added to the federal government's list of priorities.

The living conditions at the Elm Grove Garden Apartments are so vile, the owner was ordered to get to make specific repairs immediately.

Big changes are already underway at the apartments near the Baton Rouge Metro Airport.

When 9News Investigators visited the property earlier this month, we found some families living with no air conditioning, children playing near roaches, and potential safety hazards including broken balconies and exposed electrical wire.

Charisma Williams and her small children were using a small fan to keep cool. She said her AC unit had been broken for several months. The property manager at the time insisted nothing was wrong until the 9News Investigators brought the issue to his attention. Her air conditioner is now working.

"It feels 100% better. My kids can actually put clothes on and run around," Williams said.

Williams was also battling a roach problem that got so out of control, her son recognized many of them.

While she admits the situation has gotten a little better, the pests are still crawling in her kitchen.

"There's been multiple times where I cook and a roach actually came down and jumped inside the pot," Williams said.

Candis Robinson was battling a rusty pipe under her kitchen sink. She could not wash dishes without flooding her apartment. She, like other tenants who live there, told The Investigators their complaints to apartment managers fell on deaf ears. Two weeks The Investigator's first visit, Robinson was back in business.

The owner of the complex, Ed Oliver, has a Housing Assistance Payment Contract with Housing and Urban Development (HUD). According to HUD, tenants who live there pay 30% of their adjusted income. HUD pays 70% to the landlord. According to their records, last year that 70% translated into an estimated $674,000 in tax dollars.

HUD sent a letter to the property owner on July 15, 2014. It said "In response to an investigation by WAFB, our office conducted an on-site visit on Friday July 11, 2014 and found the conditions to be unacceptable."

The letter lists the HUD inspector's findings and states the owner has seven working days to address and repair all items marked as emergency health and safety issues.

Those include:

1. Exterior light fixtures with no cover or light bulb

2. Missing or broken smoke detectors

3. An apartment with non-working electrical outlets

4. Loose balcony railing

A tenant, who did not want to be identified, said she is still battling several issues in her apartment. Two of them are on HUD's emergency repair list. She only has one working power outlet. An extension cord plugged in her hall closet powers everything in her unit.

"I'm scared that one night we are going to catch fire in here," the woman said.

She said she hasn't had a smoke detector in over a year.

"They came and took it down and told me they'd be back and never came back to put it back up," she said.

Latasha White's apartment was one of several apartments also not equipped with a working smoke detector, until Thursday.

"They fixed the smoke detector. They also fixed the open wiring in the hallway," White said.

She said she noticed new maintenance men on the property, and that the repairs are being made.

She has a new bedroom door, a working faucet handle on her tub, and a new AC unit.

It is clear, maintenance crews are making improvements, but the property owners appear to be a long way from completing HUD's list.

When The Investigators contacted the Regional Property Manager, Jeanette Dominguez, Friday afternoon she said the property owner had submitted a letter to HUD on Tuesday.

It states, all of the repairs could not be made in seven days because the maintenance staff had to order some of the supplies.

A spokeswoman for HUD, Patricia Campbell, said she will have a response on Monday.

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