Recall back to October 2020, a kitchen fire in Craven Terrace left a New Bern family of four temporarily homeless for almost two weeks.
Craven Terrace management arranged a temporary but smaller apartment for the single mother and her three special needs daughters.
As they entered the fresh apartment, this is what met them:
Here is video they took upon entering the apartment for the first time:
For the next two months, Dinah Foskey complained all the way up the chain about conditions, with little result.
Then, just as she was scheduled to return to her original apartment, she was given an eviction notice instead. She has to be out by March 22.
She violated the lease, she was told. She left combustibles on the stove. Management also reportedly told a local official that Foskey was drunk at the time of the fire.
Foskey says she’s a teetotaler, but whether she was drinking at the time or accidentally left something on her stove while it was still on, who among us would feel vulnerable to being put out on the street for such infractions.
Especially after being a trouble-free tenant for 17 years.
We reached out to Michele F. Folino, regional director – Mid-Atlantic, for Preservation Management, the outsourced company that manages Craven Terrace for the New Bern Housing Authority.
“We are unable to discuss the details of this matter with media,” Folino responded via email. “Any action we take is governed by a written lease. The lease has requirements designed to protect the safety of the community and the project. Before hearing from you, we had already invited Ms. Foskey to meet with us to share any information she may have which may impact our decision.”
Folino did not respond to a request for a copy of the lease.
After 17 years and following last year’s fire, Foskey doesn’t have a copy of the lease, either. Of course not — she was burned out of her home and wears donated clothing.
During her 17 years in Craven Terrace, Foskey has served on various advisory and governing boards for Craven Terrace and the Housing Authority.
So how does one go from being a model tenant to eviction? Foskey says it’s not the fire, but because she spoke up about conditions.
“There are unjust living conditions in the projects in the projects,” Foskey told New Bern Post. “The new people don’t answer calls or fix things like they are supposed. I try to do something and they try to evict me.”
The “new people” is Preservation Management, Inc.
Preservation Management, Inc., headquartered in South Portland, Maine, is, according to its website, a comprehensive, full-service residential property management firm, specializing in affordable residential multifamily, subsidized and tax credit properties. PMI’s portfolio includes over 100 properties, consisting of over 10,000 units in 21 states, and is growing steadily in the region it serves.
Craven Terrace is Preservation Management’s only North Carolina property under management.
Preservation Management is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau and has two complaints filed with the BBB, one in 2020 from a tenant in the Birmingham, Ala., area, complaining about infestation, and another by a contractor in Columbus, Ga., saying he was not paid for performing infestation control services.
It’s a small snippet, one you would not say forms a trend, but it might explain why units are infested, if the company doesn’t pay its pest control people on time.
On Yelp, one person from Maine said this about Preservation Management:
“They are horrible crooks that will break multiple laws violate lease agreements when you complain evict you on lies they lock you out early steel your belongings keep your deposit lie about damage they let mold grow and then go in n ransack the apartment to make you pay for the cleaning they wrote housing to have my voucher taken away bc I stood up for my rights they are croocked crooks who pray on people who they know have depression and anxiety issues because they think they can get away w it Renters Beware document everything.”
One from San Francisco said this:
“This company is horrible. They dont call back or answer emails. Their property managers are petty. Ive had mold growing in my apt its been 7 days and even though the city inspector came out she Barreto refuses to call a mold professional due to me making a A.G report on her. She sent same maintenance guy to inspect again. I called 1800 # and left emails on tenant email no replies back. They want to paint over mold instead of calling a professional the property itself is getting damaged with more rust and mold all my personal belongings are ruined. The government funds this place also. Disgusting property managers.”
In all fairness, Preservation Management has a lot of properties and relatively few complaints.
But that’s where Foskey comes in. They gave her a temporary apartment. It seems that if she violated her lease, they wouldn’t have done that. The “E” word (“eviction”) didn’t come up until after she complained about conditions.
Foskey said she represents most Craven Terrace residents in her complaints about management, bug infestation, mold, and maintenance.
But others are afraid to complain because of what might happen.
“A lot of people are afraid to say anything for fear are being put out,” Foskey said.
Tharesa Lee, executive director of New Bern Housing Authority, had little to say when approached.
“We have some role in oversight, but really should contact Preservation Management and the property manager, which is Debra Adams,” Lee said via email. “It is a tax credit project and we are one of the minor investor/partners, etc. I will copy them on this email and you can reach out to them. We have an employee that works over there as a resource coordinator as part of our role in the project.”
New Bern Post also asked Lee for a copy of the lease, without response.
Kelly Rogers, a local activist, helped back in October with a GoFundMe page that raised $835 and is still active. Go here to donate.
Rogers is looking into what she can do to help further. Alderwoman Jameesha Harris is also looking into it.
“This is an ongoing issue that I’ve been dealing with prior to the hurricane (Florence, September 2018). Residents have spoke out against living conditions. The city has sent out inspectors and they saw some errors and gave them time to fix it,” Harris said.
Anyone with any kind of issues including public housing can express them in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We need to do something for these communities,” Harris said. “This is the straw that broke the camel’s back. In a pandemic; this family is low income. This is unacceptable that they are OK with putting a family on the street.”
“The Dinah story is just one of so many who don’t have the visibility or resources,” Rogers said.
As far as what happens next, Foskey is appealing the eviction.