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Investigation into affordable homes falling apart

February 14, 2012 3:13:37 PM PST
Eyewitness News investigates brand new homes that are turning into nightmares.

130,000 affordable housing units have been built in New York City in recent years, but some of them are already falling apart.

It was dream come true in the summer of 2007 for working families lucky enough to win a lottery that allowed them to buy their first home under the Mayor's affordable housing program.

But it didn't take long for the dream to come undone.

Months after moving in, ceilings started leaking, front porch's started crumbling, stairs breaking.

"I'm walking downstairs with my son, he's holding onto the banisters and he's coming down and as he's coming down he does this with the baby, again my son fits perfectly through here," said Ari Estrella, homeowner.

The families of the 29-home Marcy Development in Brooklyn have gotten together to document the never-ending problems that have cost some tens of thousands of dollars to fix.

"I would say between $50-55,000," said Vivienne Baudu, a homeowner.

"That came out of your pocket?" Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter Jim Hoffer asked.

"That I'm still paying!" Baudu said.

Video and pictures taken by the families show serious leaks when it rains and especially when it snows.

The builder has made repairs, but the leaks continue. At one point, the builder suggested that homeowners, "Go onto the roof and carefully shovel off any snow".

Now, shovels stand ready on roof tops for the next snowfall.

"Lisa, it's a three-year-old home, should you have to come up and shovel?" Hoffer asked.

"I should not have to do that, no, no. Even in my limited experience as a homeowner that sounds ludicrous to me," said Lisa McGhee, a homeowner.

"Does your agency have a problem with holding these developers accountable?" Hoffer asked.

"Well, if anybody three years into owning a home is having recurring problems, that's a problem for us also," said Mathew Wambua, the HPD Commissioner.

The head of Housing Preservation Department for the city which oversees the Mayor's new affordable housing program says the vast majority of homes are in good condition. In the rare case when there are construction issues, the agency usually succeeds in getting the developer to fix it, but not always.

"When that happens, then we simply have to bring somebody new in, and we, in essence, become a backstop for the problems that you're talking about," Wambua said.

In other words, the city gets stuck paying for the repairs which begs the question, how many more Marcy homes are out there?

"This is the mayor's program which talked about sustainability and building homes that are sustainable for the future and I don't believe they've done that," McGhee said.

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If you have a tip about this or any other issue you'd like investigated, please give our tipline a call at 877-TIP-NEWS. You may also e-mail us at the.investigators@abc.com.

Follow Jim Hoffer on Twitter at twitter.com/nycinvestigates and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimhoffer.wabc

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