GREENSBORO - In just one week, people who live at Heritage House in Greensboro will lose their homes. The city of Greensboro is condemning the building after years of crime and hundreds of housing code violations.
"I think they should put about 10 sticks of dynamite in here and implode it. I really do," said Juanita Bradsher, a resident. "It's a shame. It really is a shame. It's a crying shame."
Bradsher is ready to move out, but realizes what might be good for her and her neighbors could also be a problem for some of them.
Trying to find new, low-income housing hasn't been easy; and time isn't waiting to make it possible before the building is condemned. Heritage House was a former Greensboro hotel turned private condos. The problems in the 177-unit building have gotten dangerous and too long to list.
"The smell, the stairwell, the urine on the stairwells, the human feces, on the stairwells. The garbage, the tiles on the ceiling of the 6th floor ripped out, every light on the second floor ripped out," Bradsher explained.
In Vivian Hooker's apartment, the problem is a leaking air conditioner.
"My floor just stays soaking wet. You've seen my floors with water. Landlord quit, so I don't have anything else to do," she said.
Vivian's brother, John Hooker, also lives in one of the units.
"The people who own the place, they don't care what's going on around here," he said.
From the looks of it, visitors and some who live in the building don't care either – there's trash everywhere. And with suspected criminal activity inside the building, John says, speaking up could mean trouble.
"I can't control what other people do. It makes me mad, but there's nothing I can say," he said.
A recent city inspection found more than 800 housing code violations. The private owners also have more than $60,000 in unpaid water and light bills, according to the president of the Heritage House homeowners association.
Once the utilities are shut off next week because of nonpayment, the city plans to condemn the private property under the minimum housing code.
"The city's interest in it is that we have people in this building and we can't just turn away and lock it up. They have nowhere to go," said Mayor Nancy Vaughan, reiterating that the building is not city-owned.
"I'm asking anybody to help me get out of here," Vivian said.
The city of Greensboro and several agencies are teaming up to help the people who are being forced to move.
Concerns about bed bug infestation has the city also urging residents to leave behind furniture and mattresses so as not to bring the bugs into their new homes. In addition, city leaders are asking people to donate to the Barnabas Network - an agency working to help the residents.
Some of the most needed items include: Dressers, dining tables, mattresses, washers and dryers and refrigerators. You can also donate kitchen items like pots and pans, dishes and microwaves.
Problems at the Heritage House, go back years. In 2012, police responded to more than 1, 100 calls. In 2013, 99 of the units were given violation notices after officials considered them unsafe. Police received nearly 1, 500 calls from the complex, last year.
Before it was Heritage House, the building was the Royal Villa Hotel. There are reports even Ronald Reagan stayed there at one point. The six-story building was turned into condos several years ago when 53 different people thought they could invest in it and make a profit.
Some own only one unit, others own dozens according to county property records. Only nine of the owners live in the local area, the Heritage House homeowners association president told WFMY News 2. The owners formed the HOA and hired a manger to take care of all the landlord duties.
According to the board president, who owns 28 units himself, several of the other owners haven't been doing their part to keep up the place. About half owe more than $250,000 in dues, he said.
That's money that's supposed to be used to keep the place clean, safe, repair problems and pay the light and water bills. He went on to say the other owners just couldn't afford to keep up the property and the vandalism by some visitors and tenants haven't helped. Some of the owners have expressed interest in revitalizing the building once all the tenants move out and the city condemns it next week, he said.