Following two NBC News reports chronicling carbon monoxide poisoning injuries and deaths among public housing residents, Congress is addressing the failure of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to require CO detectors in affordable housing units.
As detailed in a prior post, Sommers Schwartz represents the family of Gwendolyn and Anthony Fleming, a husband and wife who perished from CO poisoning in their Wayne, Michigan home. The unit is part of the Hickory Hollow Cooperative, and like other federally subsidized housing, HUD does not require these properties to have carbon monoxide detectors, endangering millions of low-income tenants who live in HUD rental units. NBC News recounted the couple’s tragic story in a May 3, 2019 exposé.
Congress Allocates Money, Ben Carson Admits Errors
Following the NBC report, HUD announced on May 20, 2019, it would give $5 million for the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in public housing, after an NBC News investigation revealed the lack of protections for millions of low-income tenants who live in federally subsidized rental units. The next day in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, HUD Secretary Ben Carson admitted the agency’s failure. Incidentally, his childhood home is a short distance from Hickory Hollow.
“Whether through regulation or legislation, it is our intention to require working carbon monoxide detectors in HUD-assisted housing whether state or local law requires it or not,” Carson told legislators at the hearing.
Additionally, the House Appropriations Committee proposed a $25 million grant program to install CO detectors and remediate other health hazards in public housing.
Our Thanks to NBC News
While these measures are an important step forward, they are long overdue and will never compensate the family of Gwendolyn and Anthony Fleming and others harmed by deadly CO poisoning. We thank NBC News for covering these tragedies and the pressure its reports placed on government officials to address the dangers that HUD is now.