Mice job

In a city that has more than its share of bad landlords, the results of inspections at two facilities housing Detroit seniors weren't all that unusual. Inspectors from the city's Buildings and Safety Engineering Department found mice in the trash compactor room, a roach infestation, moldy ceiling tiles, problems with the smoke detectors, circuit breakers, "unsanitary paint," defective lavatory equipment and shoddy lighting conditions at Sheridan Place I and II on East Jefferson.

Like we said, not all that unusual — except that, in this case, the Detroit Housing Commission runs the places undergoing inspection.

News Hits reported last week that the commission probably won't be required to pay the $22 million it owes the City of Detroit. The commission was declared separate from the city by a 2003 court ruling, but city and Housing Commission functions remained intertwined until August 2004, commission spokeswoman Randye Bullock says.

The lack of a formal agreement about what services the city would provide the commission and at what cost, city officials say, is what allowed the commission to rack up millions in debt. The commission relied on the city for big-ticket services like payroll and pension functions, and more mundane things like electricity and facility maintenance.

While busy stiffing the city, the commission apparently wasn't doing a very good job of taking care of Sheridan Place I and II. Each complex has 200 apartments.

In addition to the rodents, roaches and other violations, inspectors also reported that neither building is properly registered as a rental property as required by city code. The commission also owes the city $3,868 in delinquent inspection fees for Sheridan Place II. The commission has until July 9 to fix the violations, or incur tickets and subsequent fines.

Bullock wouldn't discuss the violations, asking that News Hits file a Freedom of Information Act request for any information pertaining to the inspections — which, it's worth noting, were prompted by a resident petition submitted to Detroit City Council.

The Housing Commission is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Bullock says.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to imagine that some building maintenance may have fallen by the wayside while the commission and the city hashed out exactly who was doing what.

We're sure the aged residents of the buildings find those thoughts comforting, as they're lulled off to sleep at night by mice scrabbling in the trash compactor.

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