LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – An investigation into a company that provides housing for thousands of low-income families in Los Angeles has raised questions about the type of living conditions residents face.

(credit: CBS)

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The company and its owner have received claims from the national press that they are improving the lives of residents living in their apartments, but CBS2 Investigates has visited some tenants who have shown how they live with rats and bedbugs.

“I know it’s a little disgusting,” said Maria Cruz, removing her mattress. “These are all bed bug stains. We pretty much live with bed bugs.

Cruz shares the bed with his two young daughters.

“It’s embarrassing. If I had the money to take them somewhere else I would, but I’m a single mom and I don’t get help from anyone. And it’s disgusting and I’m sick of it. She said. “I’m just … let me show you.”

Cruz invited CBS2 to her one bedroom apartment which she rents for just over $ 1,000 a month. This is where she lives, not only with her daughters, but also with her mother and father.

In addition to a leaky ceiling in the only bathroom, the family grapples with a smoke detector falling from the wall and cracked floors in the kitchen where Cruz says the rats roam the night. She tries to feel like home, but says it’s hard for her kids.

“I’m just tired of mice. It’s disgusting. They watch them. They are terrified of walking in the kitchen because they are crazy rats, ”says Cruz.

The building was constructed in the early 1900s. About a mile and a half from the million dollar condos in downtown Los Angeles, residents say they’ve been complaining for years and nothing has happened. does, even though the owners claim to help the downtown area with “high quality affordable housing”.

The building belongs to SOLA. A promotional video touts their work in revitalizing hundreds of apartments in downtown Los Angeles by enticing investors to buy into the fund, acquire buildings and renovate them for low-income families. The video even includes brilliant before and after images.

“Many families charged with renting continue to struggle to access affordable, high-quality housing,” according to the company video.

The efforts drew in the national press, according to the SOLA website, big names, like Oprah Winfrey, whose charitable foundation donated $ 1 million to a nonprofit created by the SOLA Foundation to provide scholarships to residents of southern LA.

What their videos don’t show is the building where Cruz and others live. Drones, piloted by CBS2, showed the rear of the building, which appears to be separating precariously from the main structure.

(credit: CBS)

A resident who did not want to be identified on camera said she had collected bedbugs in plastic bags all year round as proof of what she was dealing with.

“Mom, mom, look at my foot” is what Catarina Mateo Miguel says as her two daughters cried out after being bitten by spiders, leaving large marks on their legs.

There are also cockroaches.

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While Rosalva Ariaz cooks in her kitchen, sticky traps catch dozens of cockroaches a few feet away. Others survive and crawl around the sink.

Arias says that sometimes when she cooks cockroaches come straight out of the stove.

CBS2 discovered that the building had been repeatedly destroyed by the county health department for cockroaches and bedbugs. The health department says the cockroach violation was reduced in July, but there were plenty of them when CBS2 visited.

Other buildings belonging to SOLA also had problems.

Lawyers have taken legal action on behalf of tenants in four buildings owned by SOLA, alleging that their apartments were “grossly uninhabitable, dangerous and unsanitary”.

According to tenant lawyer Victoria Ersoff, that doesn’t fit.

“Hypocrisy. You’ve seen it yourself. They’re not doing South Central any favors,” she said.

SOLA CEO Martin Muoto’s PR team canceled an interview with CBS2 at the last minute, choosing to send a statement instead, stating in part:

“Due to COVID and other mitigating factors, there have been occasional delays of our maintenance technicians and exterminators entering the residences… We are aware of complaints from tenants in this building and have already started to there. to respond.”

However, records show that entities linked to SOLA have owned the building where Cruz has lived since 2018, long before COVID, and she says nothing has been done.

The company sent repairers to some apartments to examine the conditions, after CBS2’s investigation. It remains to be seen if all repairs will take place.

SOLA’s full statement, in response to CBS2’s investigation, reads as follows:

“Over the past few years, SoLa has invested millions in acquiring and improving over 150 buildings in some of LA’s long neglected communities, such as South Central LA, Watts and Compton, and we are currently home to over 150 buildings. homeless alumni than any other business in Los Angeles. .

We strive to provide high quality living conditions to all residents. Due to COVID and other mitigating factors, there have been occasional delays of our maintenance technicians and exterminators entering the residences as quickly as before. We are aware of complaints from tenants of this building and have already started to respond to them.

This coverage appears to focus only on a small number of units out of the thousands that we manage and is not representative. During COVID, we’ve worked tirelessly to help its tenants with over $ 500,000 in rent relief, dozens of scholarships for children in southern LA, immunization clinics for hundreds of tenants, the delivery of over 150 tonnes of free food to our residents and the provision of free internet. and 500-family Chromebooks. “

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