WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) today announced committee passage of a key provision in the FY 2017 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (HUD), and Related Agencies Appropriations bill that will improve living conditions for residents at HUD-assisted housing units. After learning that HUD did not adequately assess hazards like asbestos and mold at Church Street South in New Haven, Murphy fought to ensure that the bill will significantly strengthen inspection and oversight at properties owned, insured, or subsidized by HUD, and that those properties are decent, safe, and in good repair. Last month, Murphy personally raised the issue in a hearing with U.S. HUD Secretary Julián Castro.
“There is nothing more fundamental to leading an independent life than having a roof over your head and a safe place to call home,” said Murphy. “Church Street South was in absolutely decrepit conditions – it’s disgraceful that Connecticut residents were forced to endure the mold and asbestos for as long as they did – but I’m relieved that the Senate committed to preventing a similar situation from happening again, because there are still too many Church Street Souths in our communities. The supportive housing resources we passed will be life changing for so many individuals in Connecticut and across the country, and I’m proud to have been so involved in this important effort.”
Murphy’s requests came after discovering that HUD’s Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) – the HUD office that regularly assesses both the physical and financial health of properties, including Church Street South, that are owned, insured or subsidized by HUD – does not adequately assess hazards such as black mold, asbestos, lead, and bed bugs. Because of this, Church Street South suffered from widely variable and inaccurate inspections by HUD, leading to unacceptable delays in assistance for residents. Murphy asked Secretary Castro last month to fix the office’s inspection criteria to ensure proper weight is given to environmental hazards such as black mold, lead hazards, and bed bugs, and to make REAC more responsive to local residents. Following Murphy’s request, Castro committed to assist the former residents of Church Street South and to work to increase access to affordable housing for Connecticut residents.
Earlier this year, Murphy hosted Secretary Castro for a visit to Connecticut to highlight key federal partnerships throughout the state. During that visit, Secretary Castro discussed the crisis at Church Street South with Murphy, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro, and New Haven Mayor Toni Harp.