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Woman falls from balcony at Essex Village weeks after CBS 6 investigation

Posted at 10:37 PM, May 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 23:47:07-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Five weeks after a CBS 6 investigation into a Henrico Section 8 housing complex county leaders called "not a place anybody should live," a pregnant woman fell off a broken balcony there.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gave Essex Village an "F" grade on their inspection in January.

Now with this latest incident, Congressman Donald McEachin has sent a letter to the Secretary of HUD, Ben Carson, asking him for immediate answers.

“It is totally unacceptable for residents in a HUD-subsidized complex to endure unsafe and unhealthy living conditions. It is HUD’s responsibility to ensure all residents have an acceptable quality of life,” he wrote.

Officials from HUD say they are looking into the situation.

Maurice Hubbard's Thursday morning visit to his girlfriend's apartment at Essex Village suddenly turned into a rescue mission after he heard a loud thump and heard a woman yelling his name.

He raced outside and found the 29-year-old woman, who is 7 months pregnant, lying on her back on the ground.

"Her back her side her legs were all scared up and everything," Hubbard said.

Hubbard immediately called 911, and soon after county officials showed up.

"I literally walked out on the deck with the building inspectors this morning after the incident, and pushed down on one spot with my shoe, and it fell completely through… It was that rotten," Colonel Douglas Middleton, the Deputy County Manager for Public Safety, said.

Middleton said the investigation is ongoing, but the head of the company managing the property, PK Management, told CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit they made a temporary repair to the balcony on Wednesday, and told the woman not to use the balcony until a permanent repair could be made on Thursday.

Still, Middleton said the balcony needs more than just a single repair.

"You can't just come in and fix them one time, or let them go until they rot because someone does get hurt, so no this didn't happen overnight, it takes a long time for this type of wood damage to take place," Middleton said.

Hipolit talked to the woman who fell over the phone while she was at the hospital.

The woman told Hipolit she put numerous work orders in about the balcony being broken, but nothing was ever done until Wednesday.

She said maintenance never told her not to use the balcony and she said she was trying to fix a broken screen door when she slipped and fell.

She and others who live at Essex Village, along with county leaders, wonder what happened to the $5.4 million dollars annually given to the owners by HUD to subsidize rent.

"We have a responsibility as human beings and county officials to ensure that the individuals charged with keeping a complex like this up are doing what they're supposed to be doing, and it was clear that wasn't happening," Middleton said.

GHC Housing owns the complex, and PK Management is a branch of their company.

The owner of GHC Housing is Greg Pearlman who lives in California.

He spoke with Hipolit via Skype in April and said the property was not up to his standards, and a senior staff member who was overseeing the property was terminated.

He said he was making Essex Village his top priority, and said residents would see major changes in early May.

Perlman said the building needs a $19 million renovation and he wanted to do one using tax exempt bonds and tax credits, but he said the county would not support the plan.

County leaders said they did not feel comfortable giving GHC Housing Partners massive tax credits when they had not handled the taxpayer dollars they were given by HUD appropriately.

"Once the 100 percent maintenance is over, will you come to town and give us a tour of the property?" Hipolit asked during that Skype interview.

"I will be happy to show you the property and make sure it is moving up to our standards," Perlman responded.

Pearlman visited Essex Village in early May and said via email he would "definitely" meet with Hipolit when he came to town.

However, after touring Essex Village he emailed Hipolit and said he had to catch a flight and would give her a personal tour in 90 days.

He said he thought the property was looking "pretty good," but admitted there is still work to be done. He said he is still hoping the county will support a tax credit renovation.

"They aren't ready to support a tax credit renovation yet so we will continue to show them that we are serious about enhancing the quality of life for our Essex residents," Pearlman wrote.

He also said he authorized a more than one-million-dollar contract to replace all of the exterior siding, gutters, and downspouts at the property.

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