CINCINNATI - Five low-income apartment communities in Avondale, English Woods and Walnut Hills with a long list of troubling living conditions have been deemed a public nuisance by a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court judge.
The decision Wednesday by Judge Beth Myers is the result of a months-long legal battle launched by the city of Cincinnati in February against the buildings owners New Jersey-based PF Holdings, LLC. In the last year the city has issued more than 1,800 work orders for building and health code violations at the properties which are home to more than 800 low-income city residents.
Problems range from faulty electrical wiring to damaged locks, peeling paint and plaster, leaking roofs, and lack of maintenance, according to city and court documents.
“This is the first step towards a resolution,” said Virginia Tallent, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, which joined the city as a party in the case. “There is a lot of work to be done. This is a great decision today and really advances justice for these residents, but it’s far from over."
Properties deemed nuisances Wednesday include: Entowne Apartments at 3652 Reading Road in Avondale, Burton Apartments at 1000 Burton St. in Avondale, and The Alms apartments at 2525 Victory Parkway in Walnut Hills, Shelton Gardens at 2000 Westwood Northern Boulevard in English Woods, and Reids Valley apartments at 1990 Northern Boulevard in English Woods.
“Generally, with the evidence that’s been presented.. all of them are not in good repair,” Myers said.
The lawsuit also calls for a receiver to be put in place to manage the properties and ensure the problems are fixed.
Under a contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) PF Holdings receives more than $5 million annually from the federal government to cover a large portion of resident rents for each the properties. Any receiver named for the properties would have have the job of managing the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid out by HUD each month for the properties and using the funds to tackle the code violations.
Myers is expected to make a final decision on that matter in January. Meanwhile, the lingering list of building violations and maintenance issues have led PF Holdings lender on the properties U.S. Bank Wilmington Trust to file for a foreclosure on the properties.
Officials with HUD said Wednesday they hope to work with the lender to ensure the properties remain dedicated as affordable rental housing should the foreclosure take place and the properties sold.
"The city here has been exemplary in advancing action on behalf the residents, the properties and the community," said Dan Burke, a spokesman for HUD. "That's not always, universally the case."