RI Apartment Complex Hit With Enforcement Action, Hundreds Impacted

Sunday, November 18, 2018


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Johnston, RI complex

Approximately 200 tenants are living in a subsidized housing project that is now under enforcement action and some say should be condemned.

Already, the tenants living in ten of the units have been forced to move out and be relocated to local motels.

Some children have fungal infections growing on their bodies according to the lawyer who represents 20 of the tenants. There are an estimated 70 children living in the complex.

During a recent court inspection of the complex at the Park Plaza Apartments, the attorney for the town of Johnston, Joseph Ballirano, wore a mask during the more than 90-minute inspection of the property.

Johnston Municipal Court issued multiple orders against the property owner this past week and found that the property failed to provide an engineering report, correct roofing issues, and failed to verify structural the structural integrity of the building. Previous to the most recent court action, the property owner was fined more than $30,000.

Building owners are facing contempt charges relating to roof maintenance issues -- those must be corrected by this coming Monday.

In addition, the owners have been ordered to hire an independent firm to conduct mold inspections.

The 62 unit apartment complex at 20 Park Street is owned by a Rhode Island corporation tied to a California developer Brian Chen-Chih Chen, according to Rhode Island business records.

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Mayor Joseph Polisena

Mayor Polisena Concerned

Mayor Joe Polisena tells GoLocal that the Town has been active in enforcement issues about the situation since the first complaint.

“We have been concerned and active since the first complaint,” said Polisena in a phone interview.

The complex was built in 1972 and has been sold repeatedly from one investor group to another.

The apartment complex is valued by the town at nearly $2.7 million during the last assessment in 2015, according to records.

Both Rhode Island Housing and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development have involvement in the property and neither have taken action. RI Housing says their role is simply ministerial and is limited to financial payment issues.

"The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) contracts with RI Housing to administer the housing assistance payment contract in privately owned Section 8 developments. Under the program, HUD is the responsible entity for physical inspection and enforcement actions,” said Christine Hunsinger, Assistant Deputy Director for Policy and Research at Rhode Island Housing.

“RI Housing has no authority to take any enforcement action in this matter. We are naturally concerned about the residents of the development. Those who were living in affected units have been relocated by the property manager until the issues can be resolved,” said Hunsinger.

Artin Coloian, an attorney who represent nearly two dozen tenants said, “There has been complete neglect and mismanagement by the owners of the property.”

“There are serious health hazards, clear respiratory issues and children with fungal infections growing on their bodies and one child with it detected in their mouth,” said Coloian.

He believes the building should be condemned.

Steve Issi, attorney for the property owner did not respond to requests for comment.

This story was first published 11/17/18 2:30 AM


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