The Real Deal New York

Despite the black mold and exposed wires, these Brooklyn-based landlords got a $14M HUD contract

The inspection failure rate at HUD properties has increased 30% from 2016
November 15, 2018 10:00AM

Ben Carson and the Infill Apartments at 73 Westland Street in Hartford, Connecticut (Credit: Getty Images and Trulia)

When Borough Park, Brooklyn-based landlords Blima Isaacson and Eli Fish took over federally subsidized apartments in Hartford, Connecticut in 2016, living conditions dramatically worsened.

One apartment at the Infill housing development, for example, had black mold in the basement and the bathroom. The previous owner had sprayed bleach to the deal with the problem — and Fish neglected it entirely.

Despite documented violations and health concerns at the development, in July 2017, the Department of Housing and Urban Development renewed its contract with Isaacson for 20 years in a deal worth more than $14 million. This year, the property dropped to 27 points after an inspection from 91 points in a November 2014, NBC News reported.

When Ben Carson took over HUD, he vowed to fix low-income housing. Instead, under his leadership, conditions have deteriorated, with more families living in housing that fails health and safety inspections.

More than 1,000 out of HUD’s nearly 28,000 federally subsidized multifamily properties failed their most recent inspection, NBC News reported. That failure rate is more than 30 percent higher than in 2016, the report said.

HUD told NBC News that more than 96 percent of federally subsidized apartments passed inspection. The rising failure rate is due to changes made to strengthen inspections, the department said.

“The secretary believes very deeply that families should not be forced to live in housing that’s unsafe or unhealthy and taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing it,” HUD spokesperson Brian Sullivan told the outlet.

The department lost hundreds of staff members due to President Trump’s hiring freeze. Former employees said those cutbacks have made it more challenging to identify and fix problems quickly.

Carson has also said he wants to increase the amount that low-income families pay in rent and make it easier for property owners to impose work requirements on people who receive federal housing subsidies.

Meanwhile, the department said it is getting more aggressive in going after landlords.

“The department is under new marching orders from Secretary Carson to redouble our enforcement against those who violate our rules,” said HUD spokesperson Jereon Brown. [NBC] — Meenal Vamburkar