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Tenants in Downtown Cleveland low-income senior housing demand landlord accountability

st clair place tenants
Abbey Marshall
Ideastream Public Media
Members of the St. Clair Place Tenants' Association held a press conference Wednesday to describe what they call unlivable conditions in their low-income senior housing complex.

Tenants at St. Clair Place Apartments in Downtown Cleveland don't feel safe, and they are calling on their landlord to do something about it.

Members of the tenants association, representing those living in the 200-unit complex intended for low-income seniors and people with disabilities, held a press conference Wednesday to detail troubling sanitary and safety issues.

"It's like being in Beirut — like a third world," said Marlin Floyd, who has lived in the building for six months. "Once you walk in that building, if I take you in that building, you’ll be like, 'Oh no, oh no.'"

Other longtime tenants like Marlo Burress said problems have gotten worse and worse with management turnover.

"In the beginning, it was awesome. Everything got fixed on time," said Burress, who has lived in the building for 20 years. "But now I have things I've been complaining about for years. I have a hole in the screen in my bedroom I'm using cardboard to cover up, my lock and key are all messed up... I don't feel safe in my apartment."

Most concerning, residents said, is a busted exterior door that has gone unaddressed despite numerous complaints. For months, they said, strangers have entered the building, engaging in sexual and drug activity in common areas and sleeping in the stairwells.

"I don't feel safe here," Burress said. "It's horrible. And they don't care. They say they can't do anything about it. I don't believe it, I just don't."

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland filed a complaint with the city's housing court on behalf of residents in December and hope to hear back soon.

"They’re a property management company that expresses on their website that they are committed to creating better living environments for people who are disabled, seniors, multifamily, in multi-family housing," said Lauren Hamilton, a lawyer for Legal Aid. "And we're just asking them to uphold that commitment."

Earlier this year, Cleveland passed its "Residents First" housing code overhaul intended to deal with absent and negligent landlords.

"We have reached out to the building department to request an inspection of the building," Hamilton said. "When the building has to get a new rental registration with the city, hopefully, they'll have to go through some of the requirements of Residents First in order to get that registration."

Sally Martin O'Toole, the director of the city's Building and Housing Department, told Ideastream last month they are working to hire staff to implement the new policies.

St. Clair Place Cleveland LTD., the owners of the building according to county property tax records, could not be reached for comment.

Corrected: April 12, 2024 at 12:27 PM EDT
A previous version of this article incorrectly named the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.
Abbey Marshall covers Cleveland-area government and politics for Ideastream Public Media.