Residents ‘tired of waiting’ while Casa Rosa rots

Three months after officials decided to demolish the crumbling Casa Rosa family public housing complex, residents there are still waiting and wondering when they will be moved from housing they say is unsafe.

"We’re tired of waiting and all the excuses," said Waytasha Washington, a 31-year-old mother of five who worries about her children hurting themselves on a rotting stairway in her four-bedroom unit. "I don’t understand why they are keeping us here."

But local officials said they can’t move the remaining dozens of poor families at Casa Rosa, in North Las Vegas near Las Vegas Boulevard North and Owens Avenue, until the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approves the demolition and provides housing vouchers the families can use to move elsewhere.

"We recognize that they need to be moved as soon as possible," said North Las Vegas City Manager Gregory Rose. "We contact HUD almost daily asking them to expedite our application."

HUD refused to give an estimate of when the approval and vouchers for the families might come.

"We’re hoping it will be very soon," Larry Bush, a HUD spokesman, said Wednesday.

That answer was not good enough for Casa Rosa residents.

"Our kids are constantly getting sick from the mold," said Linnet Clark, a mother of four who has become an unofficial spokeswoman for Casa Rosa residents. "We are in a no-win situation."

A North Las Vegas building inspector found mold, failing stairways, rotting rafters, broken windows, wiring and other problems at Casa Rosa during an October inspection after the Las Vegas Housing Authority contacted the city about problems at the complex. The Las Vegas agency took over management of Casa Rosa in mid-2008 after federal officials found the property had been mismanaged by the North Las Vegas Housing Authority.

In December, the city of North Las Vegas assumed management of the troubled North Las Vegas Housing Authority after embattled housing authority Chief Executive Officer Don England resigned.

The city had earlier ordered the repair or demolition of many of the decades-old Casa Rosa family units because they were unsafe.

Nearly two dozen families already moved because of unsanitary conditions caused by water or sewage that had been leaking for an undetermined length of time.

The remaining 55 families live in poor — but not unsafe — conditions, Rose said. They will have to wait.

"It would be a disservice for the city to shut down the facility at this time because I’m not sure where a number of those residents would move to," he said.

Carl Rowe, executive director of the Las Vegas Housing Authority, said there’s no way of knowing when HUD will make its decision.

"They (HUD officials) know the situation and have put this on the fast track," Rowe said. "HUD is acting at light speed, for them. It can’t go on much longer; we’ve got to move on."

Rowe said he doesn’t blame the residents for being frustrated and angry.

"The conditions are nasty," he said.

"They have lived with those conditions for years."

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285.

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