Group protests landlords in Durham

March 27, 2008 6:54:44 PM PDT
About two dozen protestors took to the streets in Durham Wednesday to bring attention to substandard rental housing.

They plan to bring new scrutiny to landlords and housing code enforcement.

The front porch is rotting, the washing machine is leaking and tape holds the sink together.

Protestors picketed the landlord at the funeral home he owns, during someone's visitation.

Zelia Stanback, 75, says she's rented one unit of a Durham duplex for 16 years at $300 a month.

"I mean, I lived here so long that it just seemed like home to me, if you want to know the truth," Stanback said.

But her son, Robert Davis, showed Eyewitness News everything he says is wrong.

The front door does not lock and electrical cords run from every room to the only working light socket.

"This is the refrigerator cord," Davis said. "Refrigerator way back here. Telephone don't even work."

The property owner, Michael G. Jones, Jr., could not be reached for comment.

But Durham city housing inspectors say they have been working with the building since January.

Protestors say the city is not fast enough.

"Our downtown can look great," protestor Muna Mujahid said. "But a few blocks over we can have people living in squalor. And continue to be great? At least say who we are and not continue to be dishonest."

Stanback sat quietly in her doorway during the protest. But ACORN, the organizers, say more protests are coming to more landlords in Durham.

One of the property owners says she thinks the Jones' property and other properties near his will be condemned for new development.

One city housing inspector, who was present during the protest, says she thinks a sagging porch was built by the tenant not by the property owner.