Families displaced by arson fire having difficulties finding low - | WBTV Charlotte

Families displaced by arson fire having difficulties finding low-income housing

(Credit: Charlotte Fire Department) (Credit: Charlotte Fire Department)
Lopez (Source: Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office) Lopez (Source: Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office)
Mike Rode/WBTV Mike Rode/WBTV

There was hope that the more than 40 families displaced by an arson fire would find permanent housing soon, but that wish is proving to be difficult to fulfill. 

For Brianna Ruby, who turns two-years-old on Saturday, hope faded for her family who wanted to find a permanent place to live before her birthday.

"We don’t have anywhere to do anything," Ruby's dad said through the use of a translator.  

"They bought everything from Mickey [Mouse] to all the favors, pinata, everything...the goody bags. They had everything prepared for this Saturday, they were going to celebrate her second birthday," Jose Castillo said. 

Ruby's birthday party items went up in smoke when a 20-year-old reportedly set a building on fire at the Woodscape Apartments early Monday morning, according to police. 

PREVIOUS: Man charged in massive east Charlotte apartment fire that injured 7, displaced 130

Arrest warrants say Jesus Reyes Lopez "attempted to kill and murder" two specific people who live at the apartment complex. Lopez's ex-girlfriend told WBTV that she believes Lopez started the fire to get revenge because she ended their relationship and is currently dating someone else. 

The American Red Cross said nearly 130 people were affected in the fire. 

Dave Fontana says he's one of the partners who just bought the apartment complex nearly a month and a half ago. Workers have been on site trying to get some of the apartments up to code so the fire marshal and building inspectors can give the OK to reopen several units.

"We have 30 units back here that are unaffected that we can – putting back into service," Fontana said.

Fontana says the rent will stay the same. He says 18 other units have to be demolished and rebuilt which he says would not be complete for nearly eight months. 

Case workers say many of the families forced to move from Woodscape Apartments were in low-income housing.

"I guess there were just apartments – of course – not up to the level in the area and we have residents that wouldn’t speak out so they were fine paying $400 with some apartments that were not too comfortable to be living in but they had a roof over their head," Ruth Perez says.

Perez says many of the families can't show rental history or don't have a credit report so other complexes are reluctant to help.

"I’ve been looking around, calling around, going to different apartment complex trying to negotiate and work a price range for the families," Perez said, who is working with families to find housing.

Many of the parents say they want to stay in east Charlotte because they don't want to uproot their children from their current schools.

"We want the property managers to work with them, maybe negotiate half a deposit, or work out the deposit in a payment plan through the rent," Perez says.

"The hard part is not to be able to be stable somewhere" says Castillo, who is staying in the Red Cross temporary shelter with his wife and kids. 

Castillo says he's feeling overwhelmed about trying to find a two bedroom apartment available for rent between $700 to $800 a month.

While Castillo knows the temporary shelter has been a savior, he says it's been difficult. "I’m not comfortable especially with daughter being here," Castillo said.

Several local organizations and agencies are working with the Red Cross to find housing for those who are displaced. 

The Charlotte Housing Authority told WBTV they were "working closely with the Red Cross by initiating the preliminary application process for first available housing to help the displaced families regarding rents, our rents are based on a family's size and income."

"Families in CHA properties pay no more than 30% of their adjusted gross income, thus they would have to apply in order to determine a fair rent calculation," a spokesperson with the Charlotte Housing Authority said. 

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