Please disable your adblock and script blockers to view this page

Carbon monoxide is killing public housing residents, but HUD doesn't require detectors

Allen Benedict Court
NBC News
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Capitol —
the Columbia Housing Authority
Columbia University
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Columbia City Council
the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association
Benedict College
the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
the NBC News Investigative Unit

KinTerra Johnson
Allen Benedict
Brian Sullivan
Gil Walker
Cynthia Hardy
Emily Benfer
Lesia Shannon Kudelka
Tameika Isaac Devine
Arlene Conn
Derrick Roper
Toddrica Smith
Calvin Witherspoon Jr.’s
Robert Ballard
Ron Stanley
Dani Washington
Douglas Desjardins.“Everyone
Big Man
Aubrey Jenkins
Tim Kaiser
Ed McDowell
Ben Carson
Mark Gladwin
Laura Strickler

African American

No matching tags


South Carolina’s
New York City
Oklahoma City

No matching tags

Positivity     43.00%   
   Negativity   57.00%
The New York Times
Write a review: NBC News

Emergency officials found dangerously high levels of the gas throughout the Allen Benedict Court public housing complex near downtown Columbia, where more than 400 people lived, nearly all African American, including more than 140 children and many elderly residents in frail health.Johnson’s three children — 8, 5 and 3 years old — saw flashing lights surrounding the building.“Open up, it’s the fire chief!” the firefighters said, banging on Johnson’s door. He said he was unaware that the authority’s properties, including Allen Benedict, were required to have carbon monoxide detectors under local law.Local oversight is limited: Columbia officials don’t conduct regular health and safety inspections of public housing, which is federally funded. South Carolina, for instance, updated its fire code in 2016 to require carbon monoxide detectors in residences, but says “it is up to the locals to enforce in most local buildings,” said Lesia Shannon Kudelka, a spokesperson for the state government.In Columbia, as in many other cities, local officials say they don’t have the funding or staff to conduct regular health and safety inspections.“Because they’re under the auspices of HUD, we would not inspect them unless they had complaints,” said Tameika Isaac Devine, a Columbia City Council member and mayor pro tem. Those scores meant that the federal government did not see any problems significant enough to require immediate enforcement action against the Columbia Housing Authority, a public corporation.HUD’s inspection reports for Allen Benedict identified only a small number of health and safety violations at the property, the vast majority of which were deemed “non-life-threatening.” During three HUD inspections — in 2014, 2016 and 2017 — the property got points off for peeling paint, clogged drains and overgrown vegetation, among other problems, according to HUD documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.There were few deductions for serious violations — and no points off for missing carbon monoxide detectors in the building where the two men died, or anywhere else in the facility, because HUD did not require them in the first place.The deaths in Columbia are not an isolated incident. At least seven other residents of public housing or HUD-subsidized private homes have died since 2003, including a married couple in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, and a 61-year-old man in Indiana.In some cases, carbon monoxide deaths in low-income housing resulted in court fines or settlements with the local housing authorities, but they have also prompted legislative action: Maryland passed a law in 2007 requiring CO alarms in newly constructed properties, then passed another measure in April 2018 requiring them in all rental units.On the federal level, however, efforts to strengthen health and safety standards in public housing have been slow-moving, with few concrete steps taken over the past two years, housing experts and observers say.Currently, federal inspectors look for damage to water heaters or ventilation systems, which can lead to a carbon monoxide buildup. Ballard and his cousin were seen at a hospital, his attorney said — but no one suspected carbon monoxide poisoning until the next day, when his two neighbors were found dead.Ballard could have died as well, Stanley said: “Had it not been for the cousin stumbling into his room, he would have slept through the whole thing, and probably never would have awakened.”Ballard is now suing the Columbia Housing Authority, as is Roper’s family and five other residents, all alleging that management failed to maintain the property and exposed them to dangerous conditions.Witherspoon’s daughter, Dani Washington, is also planning legal action against the housing authority “and all others responsible” for her father’s death, said her attorney, Douglas Desjardins.“Everyone took the shortest way out, and this is what happened,” Washington, 27, said. One of the smoke detectors has been broken since she moved there in 2012, she said, despite visits from federal housing inspectors.HUD’s Inspector General is conducting its own investigation into Allen Benedict to determine what went wrong and what the federal government’s responsibility might have been.“It all ties back to one thing — the backlog of unmet capital needs that has just grown exponentially over the past decades,” said Tim Kaiser, executive director of the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association, referring to carbon monoxide hazards in HUD housing.For years, local officials have been trying to redevelop Allen Benedict, which was “at the top of the list for demolition” in 2017, according to City Council member Ed McDowell.

As said here by Suzy Khimm, Laura Strickler, Gabe Gutierrez, Hannah Rappleye