NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — A court order has hundreds of residents in Newport News looking for a temporary place to stay.
People living at Seaview Lofts had to leave by 9 a.m. Friday morning after they received a city letter Wednesday stating the building was deemed unsafe to live in.
As some residents woke up early to pack, others hit the picket lines.
“I don’t got time to pack," resident Tasha Gayle said. "I got things to say.”
Gayle and others created signs to protest the order forcing them to leave their homes. Residents said they felt blindsided when they learned they had 48 hours to pack.
“It was devastating," Mary Augborn said. "I’ve been here 22 years, and it was unexpected.”
According to the letter from the city, the building’s owner failed to correct safety issues. One of the main issues was a broken elevator.
A city spokesperson said leaders have been working with the owner to fix the issue since April and have taken him to court several times.
“We allowed the property manager every opportunity he could to address the situation,” said Newport News Assistant City Manager Alan Archer.
A spokesperson said the elevator isn't the only issue, but it is the reason the building was condemned.
That spokesperson said the building is also dealing with water damage and combustible material in the boiler room.
Though one elevator is working, city leaders said more work needs to be done in order for residents to return home. In the meantime, the city is providing assistance.
“We have supplied enough hotel stays to provide a temporary holding pattern,” Archer said.
They set up a tenant support center at the West Avenue Library to get more information on how to get a hotel room. The city will provide residents a room through July 6th.
Mary Augborn calls this a big inconvenience as she tries to move herself and her husband, who is on oxygen.
“I’m trying to go down to the library to human resources, a veteran representative to see if I can get him to move the oxygen to another place,” Augborn said.
Although Augborn found a temporary place to stay, others say they are stranded. Though Gayle said she’s staying put.
“Right here, 28th Street," she said. "I said I’m not leaving. Did you not hear me?”
The city says leaders have filed 13 criminal charges against the owner of Seaview Lofts because of several code violations. Ten charges are related to the elevator not functioning. One is related to an electrical hazard, one for a fire protection system not working and another because the vent to the boiler is not connected.
According to the city, the owner owes $70,000 to Newport News Waterworks.
A city spokesperson said, to their knowledge, the city has never condemned a 15-story building.
13News Now reached out to the owner, who sent the following statement:
"Seaview has been working diligently to address the concerns that led the City to issue this order to vacate, and will continue to do so. Global supply chain complications have led to extended lead times on deliveries of the necessary parts, which has delayed completion of the repairs. In addition, when working with complex machinery such as elevators, fixing one problem often leads to discovery of other issues, for which parts must then be ordered, further extending the timeline of repairs. Seaview appreciates the contractors at TK Elevators who have diligently worked with us to make these repairs, and who continue to put in every effort to help us resolve the City’s concerns."