GRAND RAPIDS—Residents and former employees of the Morton House say it's riddled with problems, from bed bugs to bad pipes, but it passes inspections year-after-year with flying colors.
The Morton House is a low income apartment building in downtown Grand Rapids, subsidized by the federal government. The building has 224 units which are all Section 8.
Many of the residents have nowhere else to go. Most pay under $100 a month in rent. If not for that, they'd be homeless.
"My biggest things are bedbugs and roaches," said one tenant, a single mother.
People who talked to us, worried about being evicted for speaking outworried about being evicted for speaking out, wanted their identities' concealed. One of them was so shocked by the conditions in the building this summer that she documented what she saw with more than a hundred pictures and videos.
"(Residents) were happy to let me in, they were happy to let me take pictures," she said.
Residents say there's a cockroach infestation. One tenant has a small baby, who has to sleep in mom's bed. She says the crib isn't safe.
"I checked her bed every night for a week, and I found umpteen roaches every single time," she said.
The bed bugs are hard to see, but people have the bites to prove it. Residents say they complained to managers, who call exterminators, but the pests come back. Property Supervisor Cheronda Nelson said they respond to the pest complaints with immediate action.
"We have a full-service exterminating contractor who comes in and we have a routine service as well as a preventative maintenance program," said Nelson.
There are also reports of hidden black mold and pipes that leak through the ceilings. We were contacted by four former employees who wanted to speak out.
"People are getting sick left and right, and they're wondering what's causing this," said former custodian Nate Guyton. "I'm talking about normally healthy people, saying, 'What's going on with my health all of a sudden?'"
The Morton House is owned by Saperstein and Associates near Southfield. They own at least three other properties in the Detroit area. On their website, the Morton House is referred to as "The ultimate expression in city high-rise living."
What about the disrepair? Former employees say 100-year old pipes have created moisture and mold all over the building. "I was always told when I first started there everything stays in-house, we don't want contractors," said former maintenance supervisor Rich Vorhees. "We don't want nobody seeing what's going on."
Jennifer Henne was the general manager there from 2006 to 2010, before she was fired after a HUD inspection uncovered major disrepair. "Everything is quick-fix, boo-boo, fix it and move on, and you can't," said Henne. "Not in an old building like that." She said the building is a patchwork of problems.
Nelson points the finger at the tenants. She said managers will fix whatever needs to be done, as long as people report it.