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Allegheny

Penn Hills families given 8 days to move out of condemned apartments

| Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, 5:45 p.m.

On Wednesday, residents of about 25 apartments at Val Mar Gardens in Penn Hills found notes on their doors from the Penn Hills code enforcement office saying the property was condemned and ordering them to move out by Thursday.

“Due to lack of water, electricity, sanitary systems and a fire alarm system it has been deemed that the property has unsafe equipment and is unsafe for human occupancy,” the note said. “If property is not secured or all occupants have not vacated by Sept. 20, 2018 the municipality will remove all occupants and secure property.”

The property owner as well as officials from Penn Hills and Wilkinsburg-Penn Joint Water Authority could not be immediately reached Saturday.

Heather Talkish, who’s lived in the complex for 10 years, was shocked to see the note. She called Wilkinsburg-Penn Joint Water Authority to try to see if she could pay the bill herself since the landlord has not done so.

“They said we can’t even pay for the water if we wanted because it’s all hooked up to the same meter,” Talkish said.

Talkish does not want to move herself and her 3-year-old daughter, Alicyanha Mobley, out their apartment, she said. It’s near her mother’s house and a bus line, which takes her to classes at Community College of Allegheny County.

“I’d love to stay here,” she said.

If she has to leave, Talkish and her daughter will likely try to go to a shelter, she said.

For the Section 8 tenants of the property, finding a new apartment in eight days is especially difficult.

Geraldine Barnes, 60, has lived in the complex 11 years. She said she is on a Section 8 waiting list for a new apartment, but there isn’t one available yet.

“I keep on telling them I’m in dire need,” Barnes said. “I have a voucher that runs out Nov. 23.”

A company called PA Real Estate Development Inc. bought the complex in January, according to Allegheny County real estate records. That company was created in 2013 and has a Mount Washington address, according to state records.

The tenants held a demonstration at the complex Saturday, organized by ANEW Community Institute, a West Homestead-based nonprofit activism organization.

None of the tenants knew the full name of the landlord or how to reach him.

The group plans to march to Wilkinsburg-Penn Joint Water Authority headquarters Monday to raise awareness about the issue. The group has a meeting with state Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Penn Hills, on Friday, said Maryellen Hayden Deckard, head of the nonprofit.

“It’s inhumane. If these tenants get locked out, they will probably have to stay in tents,” Deckard said. “No shelter can take this amount of people at once.”

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Theresa at 412-380-5669, tclift@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tclift.

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