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    Friday, December 01, 2023

    The Day shines spotlight on housing mold issues

    Andrew Leary, center, and his wife Louann, residents of Branford Manor, hold up photos of the mold in their apartment during a Town Council Committee Meeting at the Groton Senior Center Tuesday, September 27, 2022. Other residents were seen holding signs that said “We Cannot Breathe Need Action Now!” (Sarah Gordon / The Day)
    Branford Manor residents Kathryn Pruett, left, and Ramonita Ramos, join other residents and supporters for a protest against ongoing mold conditions in the housing complex in advance of a visit from U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) Wednesday, October 19, 2022 in Groton. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Groton ― Branford Manor residents spoke out about problems with mold, and The Day amplified their voices.

    Over the past year-and-a-half, residents of the approximately 440-unit federally subsidized housing development in the City of Groton shared their stories and concerns about mold and other living conditions and their experiences of being moved to hotels in interviews with The Day and spoke to local governmental boards and at press conferences and a protest.

    We brought their stories, and the resulting efforts to fix the mold problem, to a larger audience.

    State legislators are working on new legislation, including Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, who called the public health crisis a “call to action” and announced that she is proposing a bill to direct the state Department of Public Health to develop standards for mold levels, testing protocols and a public service announcement. State Rep. Aundré Bumgardner, D-Groton, said he plans to introduce housing bills, including to support and enhance tenant union’s power.

    A near term priority for U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, is to introduce legislation to provide the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development with more enforcement tools for mold issues.

    Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., reiterating their request from 2020 in response to issues in other public housing, called on HUD to revamp its inspection process.

    How we reported the story

    The Day reporters stayed in touch with residents and reported on ongoing developments about the housing complex owned by Branford Manor Preservation, LP, a subsidiary of Related Companies of New York. Residents met with governmental officials, Related representatives spoke to local officials and shared their plan for remediation and improvements. City of Groton Mayor Keith Hedrick said it took incredible courage for the tenants to speak out and discuss deficiencies.

    The Day’s Housing Solutions Lab analyzed mold complaints in New London County and interviewed residents of Branford Manor and Williams Park Apartments in New London.

    The Day covered that the town and city councils voted to hold the owner of Branford Manor in default of a tax incentive agreement based on violations of the public health code and the city’s rental code. Ledge Light provided an update that a team of community health workers was going door-to-door to ask residents if they had complaints. Town Manager John Burt said early this month that the company remains in default, but is abiding by the parameters provided by the Council to allow the company to continue with the remediation work. The paper also reported in December that Attorneys Amity L. Arscott and David Rosen filed a class action suit on behalf of 16 residents against the companies that own and manage Branford Manor. Related Companies has said it is working on “a comprehensive strategy to ensure all of the necessary repairs are completed as quickly as possible.” The company said it cannot comment on pending litigation.

    “Tenant activism really has exposed the need for the law to change,” Courtney said this fall.


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