By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Officials: Lynnhill Condominiums in PG County unsafe; residents must leave in 24 hours (WJLA Video)
Last October Lynnhill Condominiums, an affordable housing complex in Temple Hills, Maryland, reached a crisis point when Pepco and Washington Gas shut off utilities to all units for several days. At the time, the condo association was burdened with a $1 million lien, due to years of unpaid utility bills. The event created a housing crisis for dozens of residents who had to quickly find emergency or replacement housing. The incident prompted Senator C. Anthony Muse to advocate on behalf of residents to have utilities restored.
Utilities were restored after a few days, but, by that time, most residents had already moved out of Lynnhill, leaving only 36 out of 220 units occupied, according to a recent report by WTOP.
However, now Lynhill Condo residents face another housing crisis. Prince George’s County Fire Department has given condo management until this Tuesday to fix fire code violations, or residents may once again be forced to evacuate their apartments. Roughly 100 people could be displaced, according to WTOP.
Residents could be forced out of problem-plagued Md. condo complex again
By Mike Murillo | @MikeMurilloWTOP
TEMPLE HILLS, Md. — Less than a year after residents were forced to move out on a moment’s notice, the problem-plagued Lynnhill condominium complex is facing a similar scenario: The Prince George’s County Fire Department has warned residents that several serious fire code violations need to be fixed by next Tuesday or the building will again be deemed unsafe.
“We are here to prevent a tragedy from occurring,” said Prince George’s County Fire Chief Benjamin Barksdale.
Barksdale said the department has been working with management since many of the violations were spotted during a call to a building recently. The violations include a fire alarm system in one of the buildings that didn’t work, inoperable fire doors and broken doors on vacant condos which are filed with trash.
Read more (Podcast):
In a related WTOP report last fall, the attorney for Lynhill Condo Association said that problems stem from $2.2 million in uncollected assessments from condo unit owners. That figure just boggles the mind!
The situation at Lynnhill is difficult, if not impossible, to resolve at this point.
Unlike publicly managed affordable housing, privatized condominium associations add a complex layer of bureaucracy – dozens or even hundreds of owners of individual condo units must work cooperatively to make the concept work. If some owner-landlords do not pay their fair share of assessments or properly maintain their units, remaining condo owners must pick up the slack. When that doesn’t happen, tenants are often left to survive in unsafe or unsanitary living conditions.
Landlords know that affordable rental units are in short supply, so they have little incentive to keep the units they own in good repair. If one tenant moves out, another desperate tenant will probably move in. And so the cycle continues until crisis mode is reached.
Without meaningful public administrative support or services, most affordable condominium associations are left on their own. That opens the doors for finanicial mismanagement, abusive management practices, and ultimate failure of the association.
After years of irresponsible management, displacement of tenants is inevitable, as is an influx of squatters, along with the resulting crime and blight.