An investigation by the Buffalo Common Council has concluded that the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA) is utlimately responsible for making sure its housing units are in working order according to New York State law, even though the BMHA employs a property management company to oversee some of its housing units.
Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen announced he was directing the Council's Community Develop Committee to formally investigate Shinda Property Management back in January after 7 Eyewitness News aired a story about 70-year-old Bobbie Spencer. At the time, Spencer had been living in a Jefferson Avenue townhouse without heat or hot water for two weeks. That townhouse is part of the larger Frederick Douglas Associates II (FDA II) senior housing development, which is owned by BMHA and overseen by Shinda Property Management. At the time, representatives from both BMHA and Shinda blamed each other for Spencer's lack of heat or hot water.
During its investigation, the Buffalo Common Council heard testimony from representatives from both the BMHA and Shinda and specifically addressed Spencer's situation.
The representatives from Shinda said Spencer's unit was just one of several housing units at FDA II with broken or failing heating systems. The systems are antiquated and can only be replaced, not repaired. Shinda obtained an estimate to replace the units, which would have cost about $10,000 per unit. Shinda is contractually obligated to obtain authorization from BMHA for any expense totalling more than $5,000. Both BMHA and Shinda testified that BMHA denied the authorization request because all of the units at FDA II were already set to undergo renovations this May.
Instead, Shinda was to relocate any tenants living in units without heat to a hotel or another unit within the complex.
Spencer, however, refused to leave her unit saying she was afraid her home would be burglarized if she left. That's when she reached out to 7 Eyewitness News for help.
Four days after 7 Eyewitness News' report aired, Spencer had continuous heat in her unit. Shinda testified to the Buffalo Common Council that they were able to negotiate a discount to repace the heating unit for $3,500 and did not need BMHA approval to replace it.
During their testimony, BMHA representatives said they believed Shinta was ultimately responsible for the health and safety of the tenants, a sentiment the Buffalo Common Council refuted in concluding its investigation.
The Buffalo Common Council's Community Development Committee presented its findings Tuesday during a committee meeting.
In addition to resolving that BMHA is ultimately responsible for tenant wellbeing, the Council recommends BMHA and Shinda work on improving communication for when requests from either party cannot be fulfilled.