Charlotte housing crisis forces families to live in substandard conditions

CHARLOTTE, NC — It's been a year and a half since bulldozers started knocking down apartments at Brookhill Village - one of the last remaining low-cost apartment complexes in Charlotte's south end.

Antionette Davis lives in one of the units not slated for demolition, but said the same mold found in the ones coming down is creeping up her walls.

"Mold is in my bathroom, on my walls, in the floors," she said. "I talked to the rent people and they told me to put some bleach on it and I'm like 'Really?'"

She described it to us because she's afraid of getting in trouble with management if she lets us inside to see it. She wants out, but feels stuck. We talked to some renters who are so scared of retaliation they would not go on camera. They told us they're concerned about living in substandard conditions, but they're paying between $400 - $500 a month in rent, and that's all they can afford.

Another family across Charlotte showed us conditions in their home with rotting wood in the kitchen, a broken toilet, and holes in the walls. They say they've complained to their landlord and considered calling code enforcement but got scared.

"They are willing to live there cause they can't find another place to live," said renters advocate Michael O'Sullivan. "I've heard stories of stories of leaking pipes making the ceiling fall down, repairs not being done for years, very unsafe conditions, and if they complain they are likely to get evicted."

Ben Krise with Mecklenburg County code enforcement says his office has many as 3,500 cases of housing violations open at a time, but he insists that he doesn't see retaliation.

"Everything we do holds the property owners accountable," he said. "I can't recall an instance where I've seen someone blatantly retaliated against because they've called code enforcement."

He refers anyone concerned about retaliation to legal aid. Attorneys there told Channel 9 they do see retaliatory evictions, especially when someone who is late on their rent complains about living conditions.

Renters should know that city code mandates owners make repairs. Krise says 95 percent of owners do comply and those who don't face fines.

But one thing code doesn't address, and that is mold. Tenants like Antoinette Davis would have to hire a private company to inspect their unit. That's something she can't afford.