IRON DUFF — Haywood County Building Inspections has condemned an Iron Duff building after it was deemed a safety and health hazard, according to county documents.

The building — a two-bedroom mobile home located at 715 McElroy Cove, owned by Dennis Hall — was being rented out for $650 per month to Chris Arwood, his 3-year-old daughter Ava, Jennifer Meadows, her 11-year-old son James and their dog, Baxter.

All occupancy was to be terminated by noon on Oct. 1, according to the notice of condemnation, which said the building is structurally unsound due to a partial floor collapse.

At the time of the building’s condemnation, there was a sizable hole leading outside through the lower wall and floor in one bedroom. The floor in that bedroom had rotted out and caused Meadows to fall through, she said.

Arwood, a carpenter by trade, said he did his own work to fix the building’s windows, none of which opened, and to try to patch a leaky roof, which caused mold to grow inside. Upon tearing up the rotted flooring in the bedroom, Arwood said he found rotten joists and pest nests, including snakes and rats.

Hall said the tenants rented his building as-is, and said they were the ones who tore up the structure. Arwood and Meadows said they were told to leave if they disliked the building’s condition.

As of Oct. 1, Hall has 60 days to repair or demolish the building, according to county documents. Hall said his plan is to demolish the structure and sell the lot, effectively ending his tenure as a landlord in Haywood County.

Rare occurrence

Haywood County Director of Inspections Bruce Crawford said his department has condemned around 10-12 homes in his 30 years on the job.

“We don’t do this very often, and we don’t go out on a rental unit unless someone calls and complains,” Crawford said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever condemned a rental unit that had people living in it.”

Infrequently, about once every three to four months, tenants do call the building inspections office to complain about their rented living conditions, Crawford said.

The tenants usually change their mind about having inspectors over upon realizing they will have to find someplace else to live if the rental unit is condemned.

“It’s kind of a toss-up between living in an undesirable building and living under a bridge, so to speak,” Crawford said.

Haywood has no countywide minimum housing standards, although the town of Waynesville has a statute, and statewide minimum building codes were made mandatory within the county in 1982, Crawford said.

“I wish there were more choices for people,” Crawford said. “There is a lack of housing available.”

The situation underscores the rental problem in Haywood. A recent market study show there will be a need for 2,290 affording and subsidized rental units in Haywood over the next three years.

Over half of the renters in Haywood have incomes below $25,000, so to pay no more than the recommended 30 percent of their income for housing costs, would need to work 103 hours a week just to afford a one-bedroom rental; 127 hours to afford a two-bedroom unit.

Problem is widespreadThrough its home ownership program, Haywood Habitat for Humanity works with individuals who earn between 60 to 80 percent of the county’s median income, said executive director Jamye Sheppard.

Leaky roofs, rotten floors, black mold, poor insulation and electrical problems are among the issues that Habitat workers find when visiting rental properties in Haywood County as part of the program’s home visit, which helps determine whether an applicant will be approved for the program, Sheppard said.

“Sometimes the landlord is aware the repairs need to be made, but it doesn’t seem to happen with these more poorly maintained properties,” Sheppard said.

People on lower incomes are unable to afford renting more well-kept and updated places, leading them to rent older, deteriorating properties, Sheppard said.

A shortage of rental properties in Haywood County reflects a nationwide affordable housing crisis, she added.

“There are a lot of landlords doing a good job maintaining older properties,” Sheppard said. “They exist, but not a lot that are affordable.”

What’s next

Meadows said she has contacted the Haywood Pathways Center about temporarily sheltering for her and the kids, while Arwood said he plans to save up his money and move the group out of Haywood County as soon as possible.

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