20 forced from condo complex deemed uninhabitable

WPRI/Madeleine Wright

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Twenty people were displaced from their homes Tuesday after a Woonsocket condominium complex was declared uninhabitable, and the city is now threatening legal action if the building is repaired.

Many residents have called the Social District Condominiums home for years, but Tuesday was the last day they were allowed to stay in the three-story, six-unit building. Some were able to find another place to stay while others are having a hard time finding a new home.

“I just need an apartment for me and my babies,” said Merlin Jackson. “Put a roof over their head. That’s what I’m concerned about and that’s what I want.”

City Solicitor Michael Marcello said the building had more than $3,000 in unpaid water and sewer fees. Trash could be seen piling up outside, creating a fire hazard, and squatters were known to live there.

Trash outside the Social District Condominiums (WPRI/Madeleine Wright)
Trash outside the Social District Condominiums (WPRI/Madeleine Wright)

“You cannot occupy a building with lack of water, lack of sanitary facilities, lack of a bathroom,” Marcello said.

Ray Harrison, a lawyer for the condo association, blames the building’s owners, saying they abandoned their units and failed to pay condo fees.

“Greedy mortgage lenders and Unit Owners who found it easier to walk away from the problem instead of working to maintain their property have brought the Association to this sad day,” Harrison said in a statement to Eyewitness News.

“What are we supposed to do?” asked tenant Melissa Forcier. “That is our question, like what is going to happen after today?”

The city is working with some of the residents to help them find housing.

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