Tue. Oct 26th, 2021

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A study by a company that provides housing to thousands of low-income families in Los Angeles has raised questions about what living conditions residents are dealing with.

(Credit: CBS)

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The company and its owner have received nationwide press coverage claiming they are living a better life for residents living in their apartments, but CBS2 Investigator visited some tenants who showed how they live with rats and bed bugs.

“I know it’s a little disgusting,” Maria Cruz said as she pulled back the mattress. “It’s all bed bugs. We pretty much live with bed bugs. ”

Cruz shares the bed with his two young daughters.

“It’s embarrassing. If I had the money to take them somewhere else, I would, but I’m a single mom and I do not get help from anyone. And this is disgusting, and I’m tired of it,” he said. she. “I’m just … let me show you.”

Cruz invited CBS2 into her one-bedroom apartment, which she rents for just over $ 1,000 a month. This is where she lives, not only with her daughters, but also her mother and father.

Along with a leaky ceiling in the only bathroom, the family is dealing with a smoke detector falling off the wall and cracked floors in the kitchen, where Cruz says rats roam at night. She tries to get it home sweet home, but says it’s hard for her kids.

“I’m just tired of the mice. It’s disgusting. They look at them. They are afraid to go into the kitchen because they are crazy rats, ”says Cruz.

The building was erected in the early 1900s. About a mile away from the million-dollar apartments in Downtown LA, residents say they have been complaining for years and nothing has happened, even though owners claim to help downtown with “affordable, high-quality housing.”

The building is owned by SOLA. An advertising video shows their work reviving hundreds of apartments in LA’s inner city by getting investors to buy into the fund, acquire buildings and renovate them for low-income families. The video even contains glowing before and after photos.

“Many rent-dependent families continue to struggle to access affordable, high-quality housing,” according to the company’s video.

The effort has attracted nationwide press, according to SOLA’s website, big names, as has Oprah Winfrey, whose charitable fund donated $ 1 million to a nonprofit set up by the SOLA Foundation to provide scholarships to South LA residents.

What their videos do not show is the building where Cruz and others live. Drones flown by CBS2 showed the back of the building, which appears to be uncertainly separated from the main structure.

(Credit: CBS)

A resident who did not want to be identified on camera says she has been collecting bed bugs in plastic bags all year as proof of what she is dealing with.

“Mom, mom, look at my foot,” is what Catarina Mateo Miguel says of her two daughters screaming after being bitten by spiders, leaving large marks on their legs.

There are also cockroaches.

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While Rosalva Ariaz cooks in her kitchen, sticky traps catch dozens of cockroaches a few feet away. Others survive and crawl around in the sink.

Arias says that sometimes when she cooks, the cockroaches come right out of the stove.

CBS2 found that the building has been written up by the county health department several times for cockroaches and bed bugs. The health department claims the roach violation was lifted in July, but there were plenty of them during CBS2’s visit.

Other buildings owned by SOLA have also had problems.

Lawyers have sued on behalf of tenants in four SOLA-owned buildings, claiming their apartments are “grossly uninhabitable, unsafe and unhealthy.”

According to tenant’s lawyer Victoria Ersoff, it does not put up.

“Hypocrisy. You saw it for yourself. They are not doing any service to South Central, ”she said.

The PR team of the CEO of SOLA, Martin Muoto, canceled an interview with CBS2 at the last minute, instead chose to send a statement and said in part:

“Due to COVID and other mitigating factors, there have been occasional delays by our maintenance technicians and exterminators entering homes … We are aware of the complaints from the tenants in this building and have already begun to address them.”

However, records show that SOLA-related units have owned the building where Cruz lives since 2018, well before COVID, and she says nothing has been done.

The company sent repair people to some apartments to investigate the conditions after the CBS2 survey. It remains to be seen whether all repairs will take place.

SOLA’s full statement, in response to CBS2’s investigation, reads:

“Over the past many years, SoLa has invested millions in acquiring and improving over 150 buildings in some of LA’s long neglected communities such as South Central LA, Watts and Compton, and we currently house more former homeless residents than any other company in Los Angeles.

We strive to provide high quality living conditions to all residents. Due to COVID and other mitigating factors, there have been occasional delays in our maintenance technicians and exterminators entering homes as quickly as they had before. We are aware of the complaints from the tenants in this building and have already begun to address them.

This coverage only seems to focus on a small number of units among the thousands that we manage and are not representative. Under COVID, we have worked tirelessly to help its tenants with over $ 500,000 rent, dozens of scholarships for children in South LA, vaccination clinics for hundreds of tenants, delivery of over 150 tons of free food to our residents and free internet access, and Chromebooks for 500 families . ”

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