HARTFORD -- Attorney General William Tong announced Wednesday that his office opened an investigation into former Clay Arsenal Renaissance Apartments landlord Emmanuel Ku.
The apartments held 150 multi-bedroom units that spread over 26 properties in the North End of Hartford. The units made headlines three years ago when residents started complaining about poor living conditions.
In a civil investigative demand issued Wednesday to Ku, the Office of the Attorney General seeks comprehensive evidence as to the maintenance and management of Clay Arsenal, inspections records, rental agreements, repair records, maintenance costs, tax returns and financial records, tenant recruiting records, and other documents.
Residents of the apartment had endured broken windows, rat infestation, mold, etc. The Christian Action Alliance, a grassroots non-profit organization based out of Hartford’s North End, organized the residents to speak out about the conditions and gain the attention of their property owner, Ku, who they referred to as a slumlord. The residents, along with the Christian Activities Council, got the attention of the city of Hartford, inevitably getting the city to rescind Ku’s tax abatement.
In May, 2018, FOX61 was first to report that the city of Hartford was pulling the $266,000 tax abatement from Ku. Ku has been receiving the tax abatement from Hartford since 2011 and he has been receiving the $1.4 million each year from HUD since 2007.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, then said they would be rescinding the $1.4 million subsidies that they have been giving to Ku.
In June 2018, HUD Secretary Ben Carson pledged to help with relocating the residents who didn't have section 8 vouchers, meaning their choice of relocation was limited. HUD had stated that when the tenants were to relocate, they would be given those vouchers.
FOX61 News was first to report on the relocation.
In December of 2018, Ku sold the properties for a profit of $6.5 million, more than three times his purchase price.
Tong said the civil investigative demand gives Ku until March 15, 2020, to provide requested documents, at which time the Office of the Attorney General will make a determination as to next legal steps.
Wednesday, Tong announced that the launching of an investigation was a first step by the Office of the Attorney General to protect fair, safe, affordable housing in Connecticut. he said while CUTPA has been used in private housing actions in the past, this investigation is first such housing action known to this office by a state attorney general under a state unfair trade practices act:
"Emmanuel Ku bought Clay Arsenal at a rock bottom price, and extracted millions in federal and local subsidies based on unfulfilled promises to provide safe, affordable housing for vulnerable Hartford residents. He let those properties rot, and subjected his tenants – who had little to no ability to leave – to dangerous, uninhabitable conditions. Tenants reported roaches, mice, bed bugs, mildew, black mold and apartments lacking the most basic of functions, including heat and hot water, working windows, and working toilets. The Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act gives our office broad enforcement powers to protect the public from unfair and deceptive acts and we are prepared to use the full scope of our authority to defend the rights of tenants. Clay Arsenal tenants have emerged as aggressive, effective, and organized advocates for fair housing, and our state action today builds on their important leadership."
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin also commented on the new investigation:
“Emmanuel Ku left families living in deplorable conditions while taking millions of taxpayer dollars, and this investigation sends a strong message that Connecticut will use every tool available to hold slumlords accountable. The Attorney General’s investigation is another testament to the effective organizing that began with Clay Arsenal tenants, and I want to thank him for his advocacy on behalf of our community.”
Special Counsel for Civil Rights Joshua Perry is assisting the Attorney General with this matter.