Dozens of Southwood Apartments residents gathered with housing advocates Monday afternoon outside the South Side complex’s leasing office, where they called on management to fix broken and malfunctioning appliances and address additional issues to ensure a quality living environment for all within the community.
The rally, which was largely made up of Latino residents, was the latest in a monthslong campaign to get an assortment of issues addressed, including mold and infestations of roaches and mice. Previous outcry from residents and advocates and media coverage have drawn widespread attention to the complex, including a civil rights investigation into living conditions by former state Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s that is still unresolved.
The scrutiny has led to some welcome repairs, said organizers, noting that a majority still face housing issues.
“In the past few months, maintenance has been doing better, but there are still hundreds of tenants who have been waiting for days, months and even years in some cases for necessary repairs,” said Sophia Vega, a community organizer from New Virginia Majority who is working with affected residents.
“Nobody deserves to live in conditions where there are cockroaches, bedbugs, rats, broken appliances or electrical systems for days, much less months or years.”
These issues and others were presented in more than 60 documents and taken during the rally to the leasing office. But the office doors were locked and people inside the office provided no response when the tenants tried to submit the documents.
New Virginia Majority is working with affected residents to continue documenting the unaddressed issues they face in their homes.
Delia Lopez Figueroa, who has lived with her children in Southwood for three years, said she has ongoing problems needing repairs, such as a flooding sink and broken refrigerator. She urged Southwood management to expand the number of maintenance workers. Other residents echoed this request, with some calling on owners to allocate the money necessary to ensure the hundreds of units are able to get prompt and quality help.
“We have a lot of problems,” said Dislaury Holuin, a senior at George Wythe High School whose family has continued to deal with mold, broken bathroom appliances and more since they first began living in Southwood four years ago.
Other residents who watched the rally from afar had their own take, disputing the problems raised by residents at the rally. Some expressed concern for how the complaints overlook the repair work being done by management and are ruining the complex’s reputation.
Some also claimed that some residents seeking better responses from management have been disorderly and that advocates have failed to reach out to African-American residents in the complex.
“I don’t have these problems,” said Tina Tonzo, a six-year Southwood resident who at one time worked in apartment maintenance in the complex.
“I’m not complaining,” Ms. Tonzo said. “All I’m trying to say is that all of us need to get together and get it right.”
But that viewpoint was challenged by rally organizers and other residents, as well as representatives of the Virginia Student Power Network and Tavorise K. Marks of the Chesterfield County Branch NAACP. They said such comments show that management gives unequal attention to residents’ concerns.
“I’m glad they live in good conditions,” Ms. Vega said, “but a lot of people don’t, and that’s what we’re fighting for.”