News 3 Special Report: Mold in Section 8 Housing - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

News 3 Special Report: Mold in Section 8 Housing

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Donista Williams lived in mold-infested apartment in Eagles Trace Donista Williams lived in mold-infested apartment in Eagles Trace
Mold growing from vent in Eagles Trace apartment Mold growing from vent in Eagles Trace apartment
Mold growing on windowsill inside Eagles Trace apartment Mold growing on windowsill inside Eagles Trace apartment
Mold growing from floorboard in Eagles Trace apartment Mold growing from floorboard in Eagles Trace apartment
Mold kit Williams put in bedroom she suspected was infested Mold kit Williams put in bedroom she suspected was infested
COLUMBUS, Ga. - The Housing Authority of Columbus says taxpayers spend $15 million each year to pay for people living on Section 8 vouchers in the city, but you may be surprised at what kind of living conditions some of them are forced to live in, and what your money is really paying for.

The Housing Authority helps thousands of people in Columbus find affordable places to live beyond public housing projects. Under Georgia's Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations, those private units are inspected annually for health standards, but some have come up with sub-par results.

Donista Williams lives on Section 8 vouchers with her children and grandchildren. The family lived at Eagles Trace Apartments for more than seven years, and say mold in the walls, doors and windows was a constant problem.

Williams says, "If the contractor comes in and scrapes the walls, it's still in there."

Williams says she complained to management many times. In 2011, her 7-year-old son Travon went to the hospital, where doctors found mucus in his lungs. The Centers for Disease Control says mold can cause respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children.

"When I explained to the doctors what's going on, what was going on in my household," says Williams, "they were going to hold him until the problem was taken care of."

News 3 did some digging, and found Williams's apartment got a failing grade on its annual health inspection in January 2013.

"Eagles Trace people wound up sending a contractor in there to do something to the wood or something in there," she says, "but it eventually wound up coming back."

One month later the apartment passed the inspection, but the problems soon returned. "It had gotten so bad to where it had hair on it," says Williams, "and I cleaned some and people told me I shouldn't have done it, but I did it anyway because it wasn't safe for my kids to be in there like that."

That's when she went back to the Housing Authority, and to attorney Mark Post, for help. Housing Authority Executive Director Len Williams explains that Section 8 landlords don't have to live up to the same standards as public housing projects, and many times, they don't.

Len Williams says, "We have some that just do the minimum, but of course if they meet the minimum, that's all that's required under the program."

When the inspector came back in August, the unit failed again, citing mold in two bedrooms. Donista says, "They came, sprayed the Clorox, bleached the floors, but they came and sprayed, and they wiped the wall off. I said I could have done that."

The unit passed a re-inspection Sept. 6th.

Post says, "It is well known that mold does go to damp and wet places, and it grows. It grows in the walls, it'll grow underneath the floor, it'll grow in the ceiling, it'll grow in the air conditioning duct. It can be a problem."

Black spots were growing from the windows and walls when I visited the apartment in October. Williams says her pregnant daughter refused to sleep in her bedroom because she could smell the mold and didn't want it to affect her new baby. Meanwhile, her son was making frequent trips to Eggleston Hospital in Atlanta to be treated for now chronic lung problems including asthma and multiple bouts of pneumonia.

Williams wanted to move after the botched Housing Authority complaint, but on Section 8, a resident has to wait until their lease is up to relocate.


Williams says, however, "This year I made it my business, said hey I need to go because I have my grandbabies, my baby, my other kids, and that's not safe for them to be over there like that."

Today, Williams and her family have moved to a house in East Columbus that is mold-free, but Travon remains at the hospital in Atlanta, where he is waiting on a liver transplant, and just got over three viruses and pneumonia, again.

Travon lived in the Eagles Trace apartment since he was born, and Williams says she hopes once he comes home, the new environment will help him get better.

Eagles Trace has been under new management since August. C.F. Lane took over two days before the Housing Authority inspection at Williams's apartment. Senior Regional Manger Donna Collins says the company is dedicated to making sure the residents are happy, and try to respond to any complaints within 48 hours.

Len Williams says that is what they expect from the landlords.

Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.
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