Broken appliance jeopardizes local veteran's housing assistance

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) -- A local veteran says he just wants help to stay in his apartment. He gets Section 8 rent assistance, but that's in jeopardy because the apartment may not pass that program's inspection. The 82-year-old vet says the landlord hasn't fixed the stove as required.

"I'm a veteran, I fought for this country," Bill Quigley said on Friday. He served in the Korean conflict as an Air Force cook, and now he can't get a stove that works right. He shows the gas range with one burner that fires up, and a second one that comes on half-way.

Quigley says the Housing Authority Section 8 inspector was out one month ago and found problems with the stove, a lack of weather stripping under the front door and problems with two electric sockets in the bathroom.

"Everything was done except the stove," Quigley said. He said when the first inspection was done two burners were working, and that wasn't good enough. The manager did send someone to fix the stove, but after two hours -- now only "one and a half" burners will light up.

He's lived in the small apartment on L Street for 14 years, and he's frustrated over the situation. "I don't know what to do, I cry half the night," the senior citizen said. "I do, believe it or not. I don't know what's going to happen, and nobody seems to care."

Quigley said he called several local public officials, but they kept sending him to someone else. The last one started to tell him to make another call. He's had it.

Quigley said he really doesn't want to move. "The money is one problem," he said. "And finding a place that takes Section 8 is another problem." The senior says he's on a very limited income, and it seems almost impossible to come up with a deposit and first and last-month's rent for a new place. And it's just daunting to think about moving at his age.

Housing Authority Executive Director Stephen Pelz told Eyewitness News that the agency tries to work with renters in these situations. Section 8 pays for part of the rent, and if a landlord doesn't make a repair they're responsible for, the agency can withhold their portion of the rent payment. "Nine times out of 10 this takes care of it," Pelz said.

If the landlord still doesn't fix the problem, Pelz said the Section 8 recipient is given a voucher to look for a new place, and they're given four months to do that. If the landlord makes the needed repairs in that period of time, the tenant can opt to stay in the apartment.

Eyewitness News tried to reach the mangers or owners of Quigley's apartment on Friday, but a listed phone number was disconnected, and no one answered at the unit where the owner's relative lives on site.

The re-check of Quigley's apartment was set for Friday, but the Housing Authority inspector somehow missed connecting with him. Quigley's not sure what'll happen next.

"I want them to fix the stove so I don't have to move," he said. "Just get the burners working, they don't have to give me a whole stove."