“I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I can’t take a bath. I can’t walk around barefoot. They’re all over my clothes and making me sick.”
While having a roof over your head often is a signal of stability, for Edith and her family it’s been anything but that. From bugs to lack of repairs to inconsistent answers from management, her life in public housing has been in constant turmoil.
“This place is messing people up mentally, physically, emotionally,” she says about her home.
One of the common issues with public housing is the lack of maintenance to the structure. When investment and support for affordable housing complexes is low, the regular fixes a home should have linger longer than it should and cause lasting damage that goes from concerning to dangerous to downright unlivable. Edith’s has seen this firsthand over the past eight years living in public housing around the Midlands. When she moved in, a major leak occurred in her kitchen. A repair was done but left a gaping hole behind her stove which allowed insects and rats to infiltrate the home. The hole remains years later and has caused endless pests’ problems in the home.
“It’s like I’m living in a barn… the bugs get in my hair, in my clothes,” says Edith. Home maintenance has helped spray for pests, but that only provides temporary relief to the broader problems existing inside her walls and underground. She can’t sleep because of the bugs that keep falling from the walls. She can’t cook because of pests getting into her food. The problem has interrupted every part of her family’s home life.
The pests not only make home living uncomfortable but filters out to her family’s everyday life as well.
Edith’s apartment also has structural damage that only continues to worsen. Her toilet is only partially attached, causing water damage in the bathroom. The mold that has built up in the home has caused her breathing problems and asthma so bad that she was hospitalized for what she thought would be an overnight stay that turned into two long weeks.
Despite constantly talking to management, she has been unable to find answers. “I’ve been ignored, and I have proof, paperwork, and pictures,” she shares.
She is currently working to try and find another place to live that is safe and stable, but earning enough money to do so while also supporting her two kids has proven to be impossible. She shared that she wanted to go back to school, earn a degree, and seek a better life, but she finds herself stuck.
Per the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Gap Report, seven out of ten renters with the lowest incomes are at a severe risk of housing instability due to systemic inequities and federal underfunding of proven solutions. Without the lack of robust state and federal level action, these issues will only continue to worsen and create the longstanding issues families like Edith’s has seen time and time again. Without more investment and construction of affordable housing – South Carolina only has 42 affordable, available homes for every 100 individuals with extremely low income – families have no choice to choose either living in hazardous conditions or face homelessness.
About 14 Day Letters
Tenants like Edith who are struggling to get their landlord to make repairs, especially repairs materially affecting the health and safety or physical condition of their property, should send their landlord a letter regarding the landlord’s duty to fix the property. This is called a 14 Day Letter. If repairs are not done after the letter is provided, it can be used to file a claim to the magistrate court against the landlord to help resolve the issue.For more stories and housing information, visit our housing page SC Tenant Voices to learn more.