The Maine State Housing Authority will stop paying rent for 14 tenants living in Section 8 apartments owned by longtime local landlord Madeline Pratt based on recent inspections that turned up safety violations in a number of Pratt’s 12 buildings in Norway and Paris.
The 90-year-old owns 12 apartment buildings with a total of 33 units in Norway and Paris.
Pratt said she began buying housing units with a house on Alpine Street shortly after World War II. Back then, she ran rooming houses, making sure they were kept clean and even washing the bedding of workers from the bustling factories in town.
Several decades later, she went to Augusta to lobby to bring Section 8 housing to Norway, she said.
“If it hadn’t been for me, there wouldn’t be any Section 8 in town,” she said.
- Image by fixedgear via Flickr
Pratt defended the state of her buildings, many 19th-century, wood-frame homes, saying people with Section 8 vouchers generally should not be in new construction because they do not clean their homes.
“I’ll tell you right now, the people we’re dealing with today should not be in new construction,” she said. “You should see these houses when they move out.” She cited trash, dirty “flushes” and other unsanitary conditions brought on by tenants.
“It’s not fair; there’s not much we can do about it,” she said.
Pratt said she has poured thousands of dollars into the Lynn Street apartment building, updating things such as smoke detectors and the thickness of walls to meet fire codes. The Lynn Street building is on the market, she said.
Kay Hawkins, the Section 8 inspector in Norway and Paris, was fired last month when reports surfaced about safety violations in apartment buildings that take Section 8 housing vouchers that she inspected. Norway Town Manager David Holt said Friday that building inspector Joelle Corey-Whitman will continue to inspect apartment buildings in town and to take action when necessary.
The state’s stoppage of rental payments began with four tenants on Nov. 1. The rest will be staggered over the next two months based on when re-inspections occur, housing officials said. More tenants could be affected as inspections continue to turn up violations.
The tenants are given 30-day notices that the subsidy payment will be stopped on a particular date. They can transfer the subsidy to a new apartment.
Re-inspections by the state began after a recent investigation by the Norway-based Advertiser Democrat into allegations of locked secondary exits and lack of smoke detectors following a fire last spring in one of Pratt’s buildings that left 11 people homeless. The newspaper report prompted an emergency meeting of state and local officials, tenants, landlords and other concerned residents on Nov. 4. The meeting focused on problems in Section 8 apartments and the roles Maine State Housing and Avesta, the state’s local agent, played in the situation.