‘Fix the unit’: Shockoe Hill residents swelter as temperature soars

Tenants have problems with AC units

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - On a scorcher of a day Wednesday, residents at one Richmond apartment complex say they’re burning up inside their own homes.

Tenants at Shockoe Hill Apartments have been saying for years they freeze all winter and suffer from the heat all summer. Window air conditioning units that management has given out to some tenants just don’t get the job done.

Shockoe One LLC is the new owner out of Spring Valley, NY, and manager Manny Stern said the residents don’t understand the nuances of renovating an old building.

The residents themselves disagree.

Shockoe Hill Apartments are senior, low-income housing subsidized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and residents are calling for central air and heat to be installed in their units.

Faruq Shafiq said Shockoe Hill Apartment is like "living in hell."
Faruq Shafiq said Shockoe Hill Apartment is like "living in hell."

Residents say low-income housing does not justify management passing off a small space heater as sufficient.

Faruq Shafiq is one resident who said the apartment’s oven is needed to provide heat in the winter.

“You go to bed you sit it in your bedroom and shut the door to heat the bedroom," Shafiq said. "If you’re in the living room, you turn the oven on to help to heat it.”

Management did repair his unit’s compressor, and it’s been working for two years, but he says others suffer and managers told him not to worry about other residents when his unit is working.

“It’s like being in pure hell. The walls are sweating. You are sweating," Shafiq said. “You can’t even rest properly at night when you’re in bed.”

The exterior of a window unit at Shockoe Hill Apartments.
The exterior of a window unit at Shockoe Hill Apartments. (Source: NBC12)

Reginald White, a veteran of the Vietnam War, has lived at Shockoe Hill for 15 years. His compressor broke in 2018, and he was living without air conditioning until last Thursday when a window unit was installed.

That unit was turned on as high as it will go with two additional fans blasting and still White is sweating just sitting in his apartment. Even with the unit on full, a thermometer inside the apartment read 82 degrees.

“Fix the unit," White said. “Give me a compressor and then the unit will work.”

Some tenants said they received window units when management heard they had reported the issues to NBC12. But Stern said that isn’t true and he wasn’t aware of the tenants’ concerns.

Stern did, however, say the buildings boiler system is going to be replaced by the end of the year with a new unit for heating and air conditioning.

A thermometer inside a Shockoe Hill Apartment unit showed it was over 80 degrees even with the air conditioning on.
A thermometer inside a Shockoe Hill Apartment unit showed it was over 80 degrees even with the air conditioning on. (Source: NBC12)

For residents like William T. Harris III, that’s not good enough.

Harris is diabetic and has myopathy and said the tenants are being “mistreated.”

“I fell asleep and burned my foot on the space heater," Harris said. "I want central heat and air in here like I signed up for and I want you to let everybody know that the people here are being mistreated.”

A repairman said he had fixed three or four compressors and still about that many left to repair.

Residents said maintenance workers went door-to-door following NBC12′s visit asking what needed to be repaired and discussing the problems residents were dealing with.

They still aren’t happy, but managers say it’s normal for complaints such as these when the cooling system is turned on for the first time during summer weather.

“What are we supposed to do?” resident Rachel Bonapart said. “Die before we get any service?”

Stern said he will be in Richmond next week and has invited NBC12 to meet with him and property planners to see what can be done to improve the living conditions.

Copyright 2019 WWBT. All rights reserved.