SAGINAW, MI — The city of Saginaw has condemned the White Deer Apartment complex and issued an order to vacate after a lengthy period of poor conditions, according to officials. The complex was home to about 30 residents, where some have lived for nearly 20 years.
On Thursday, July 16, hours before city officials completed their last inspection of the complex, U-Haul trucks and trailers hitched to pickup trucks rumbled through the grounds of the site as some were in the process of moving and others seemed to stay put.
Related: Saginaw on the brink of condemning apartments, residents fear homelessness
Rose Glass, 74, has lived at White Deer,1800 Beacon Drive, for 15 years. When she first moved in she remembers management and the apartments being what she describes as nice.
“It was so nice when I moved out here,” Glass said. “Everything was being taken care of – the apartment, I mean it was just really, really nice out here then. If you had something broken in your apartment, they fixed it.”
But since then, there’s been a decline in maintenance, a claim the residents make, and the reason the buildings were condemned by City Chief Inspector John Stemple. Officers with the Saginaw Code Enforcement Neighborhood Improvement did a final inspection on Thursday afternoon.
Glass recounted some of her issues she’s experienced over the years such as a broken stove and refrigerator, her storage unit getting broken into and broken fixtures.
Smoke alarms on several of the floors of the apartment building loudly warned Glass and other tenants that the batteries would soon die.
The code enforcement team identified several extreme hazards and various safety issues at the property. This included construction and electrical problems, water damage, and significant fire hazards, according to the City of Saginaw.
Residents at the complex haven’t been allowed to use their balconies at the complex because they were in the process of being reinforced, according to apartment management.
Multiple violation notices were sent that clearly indicated the necessary repairs, the timeline for completion, as well as the consequences if the repairs are not made, stated officials with the city of Saginaw.
SCENIC officers posted red signs on the doors of the buildings of the complex that read “CONDEMNED.”
The apartment manager who has asked to not be named has said there has been communication between the city and the apartment owner for over a year in regard to maintenance issues. They also stated, the owner hasn’t given them adequate funds to address the issues.
The White Deer Apartments owner, Vanessa Ganna, lives in Argentina, according to apartment management.
The hallways leading to Glass’ unit were dark due to missing light bulbs, trash was overflowing in the laundry area and the carpet was encrusted with dirt, but her apartment was just the opposite: neat, clean and well-decorated.
Boxes full of Glass’ belongings began to accumulate on Thursday morning as she was in the process of finding her new place to live.
“‘I’m just glad I’m not working and have to do this,” Glass said of the move.
Glass is a paraprofessional at Saginaw High school and has the summer off while school is out. The longtime tenant is planning on getting help from her brothers to help her move out.
“Whenever I get done with this, I’m going to take myself a hot bath, scream, cry and drink,” Glass said.
Jeremy Robinon, Glass’s upstairs neighbor, hadn’t made much more progress on moving since he’s had to work 15-hour shifts since finding out about the city’s plans to condemn his home.
“Three days just wasn’t enough time,” he said.
“We realize that this is a difficult time to relocate; however, for the health and well-being of these residents, they must vacate as soon as possible before a tragedy occurs. The residents and their families are at serious risk by staying here,” Stemple said. “Safe and affordable housing in our city is important, but the conditions in this case are unacceptable. Our code enforcement standards are in place to protect our residents, and we expect all rental properties to meet that standard.”
Residents from the White Deer Apartments have been instructed to contact 2-1-1 to receive Rapid Rehousing Assistance or assistance from the Homeless Prevention Services Program. Funds for security deposits, utility deposits and rent may be available for families who are at risk of becoming or have just become homeless. The United Way of Saginaw County is working with other community partners to develop alternative solutions for those who do not qualify or need additional assistance, according to city officials.
Thomas McKinstry was fully moved out of his apartment on Thursday. His last task was to clean up before he officially left. He’s moved into a hotel for the time being.
“I can’t find another apartment right now,” said McKinstry. “I put in an application but they haven’t called me back yet.”
McKinstry, a resident since 2009, said he was planning to move out sometime this year because he hasn’t been able to use his balcony for years and apartment management failed to fix his air conditioning.
“They knew it was coming. Why didn’t they give us more warning?” McKinstry asked. “It’s heartbreaking, but life goes on.”
Saginaw on the brink of condemning apartments, residents fear homelessness
Community cleans up condemned Saginaw apartments, some tenants return