Nine tenants who once lived in the Hacienda apartment complex in the city of Richmond recently won a $658,000 settlement from the city over allegations that they had to live in terrible living conditions for years.
Nine disabled and elderly public housing tenants recently won a $658,000 settlement from the city of Richmond. According to the lawsuit against the city, the tenants at the Hacienda apartment were subjected to years of having to live in a “notorious housing project overrun with roaches, mice, squatters, and mold.”
Many of the tenants welcomed the settlement. Some include a “formerly homeless grandmother, a wheelchair-bound senior who had cycled in and out of hospitals, and a gentleman with a prosthetic leg.” Prior to the settlement, the tenants had filed numerous complaints and joined in on City Council meetings to try and get the Richmond Housing Authority to do something about the awful conditions they were living in.
One of the tenants and plaintiff in the case was Geneva Eaton, 78. According to her, “she lived in an apartment swarming with mice and cockroaches.” She noted that she was “so traumatized by the vermin infestation that she slept with the lights on.” Though she has since moved away from the nightmarish apartment in Richmond and now lives in Arizona, she claims she “still has nightmares about her time in Richmond.” She added:
“Sometimes I think about all the stuff I lived through and I get a cold chill on me. We lived in these horrible conditions, and the city tried to put it off on the tenants. We asked everyone for help. All they really had to do was clean that place up and they wouldn’t even do that.”
Investigations into the living conditions at Hacienda apartments and the “chronic mismanagement by the Richmond Housing Authority” began in 2014. During those investigations, building inspections were performed that “showed half of Hacienda’s apartments were infested with roaches and almost a fifth of them had mold.” To make matters worse, “Hacienda’s sixth floor sat vacant for years due to roof leaks so severe that stalactites grew from the overhead walkway and caused water to seep through the ceilings in units below.”
At the conclusion of the investigation, the Richmond Housing Authority finally admitted that Hacienda was uninhabitable, though it “took almost two years for the cash-strapped agency to secure funding and evacuate the last of the residents from the building.”
Not long after the conclusion of the investigation, the former tenants filed their lawsuit against the city and the Richmond Housing Authority. In the suit, the tenants called the city “one of the biggest slumlords in Contra Costa County,” and argued that the city actually “breached its contract and created a public nuisance by failing to provide safe and sanitary housing.” They also listed a laundry list of problems with the apartment complex, including the following:
- Faulty elevators
- Lax security, which allowed “drug dealers and prostitutes to run amuck”
When commenting on the settlement, Mister Phillips, one of the attorneys who represented the tenants, said:
“The people who live in the Hacienda were on the right side of justice, and the Housing Authority and city were not. The city needs to know that they can’t treat people any old kind of way because they’re poor.”
So far the mayor of Richmond and the attorney for the city and housing authority have not responded to requests for comment.
After accounting for attorney’s fees, the settlement funds are expected to be split among the nine plaintiffs.