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Tenants Need Continuing Aid

Residents of the Haster Gardens apartment complex in Garden Grove got their hopes up last year when a new management company took over. Now the situation is deteriorating and the city will have to step up its efforts on behalf of tenants.

Six months after the management change, city officials say the complex is still the worst slum housing in Garden Grove. And the operating company, Equity Management 2000, says it’s throwing in the towel April 15.

City officials have tried to keep conditions at Haster Gardens from getting even worse. They have protected tenants, suing various owners of the 148 apartments in January to force them to correct problems.

The city has advised tenants that it will hold an evening meeting next week to respond to their concerns. That’s correct recognition that communication is important in this matter. Tenants need to know that someone is looking out for their interests.

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Garden Grove has declared nearly three dozen of the units uninhabitable for health or safety reasons. Tenants complain of an absence of heat and electricity, rodent infestation and other deplorable conditions. More than 60 tenants began a rent strike last month, and a private negotiator has been hired to represent residents in their dealings with landlords and the city. The negotiator says the city has dragged its feet in helping the residents.

Many tenants, who pay from more than $500 to more than $900 monthly in rent, say they would like to move but cannot afford it. Most are poor; many are immigrants. They say paying deposits and other move-in expenses is beyond their means.

Residents pay their own electricity and gas bills. But city officials say the management company has paid for the hot water in apartments and for utilities in common areas. Equity Management 2000 said it put hundreds of thousands of dollars into improvements, but tenants say conditions have not gotten better. The city needs to seek assistance from utility companies in keeping everything working when the management company departs.

There’s no excuse for unsafe housing. The rents at Haster Gardens are sufficient for landlords to maintain safe and healthy conditions. The city has been dragged into an unfortunate situation; it has to keep pressuring owners until problems are corrected.

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