Following the closure of a large apartment complex, frustrated Lansing city officials are struggling to find homes for everyone.
On March 22, residents of an apartment complex located at 2222 W. Holmes St. in Lansing received a red tag notice on their doors, stating “DO NOT ENTER UNSAFE TO OCCUPY.”
The 29-unit complex is owned by Simtob Management and Investment LLC. The company has numerous properties all across the Lansing area, with a total of 674 apartments across eight different residences as of January, 2023. According to the company’s LinkedIn profile, it owns a total of “847 units owned and managed in West Michigan.”
“We have over 700 red tags, the overwhelming majority of those, 90% of those, are market-rate homes. The people who live there have no other place to go because we do not have enough clean, safe, affordable housing in the city,” said Patricia Spitzley, an At-Large member of the Council.
Simtob’s website states “we don’t just rent apartments. From the moment you walk through the front door you’ll feel the comfort and security that makes our residents happy to call us home…We look forward to welcoming you to The Good Life.”
“After we learned that the residents were to be moved from [W. Holmes apartments], imagine my absolute horror that I found out they were being moved to housing owned by Mr. Simtob, which was also pink tagged,” Spitzley said.
Some of the Holmes residents were offered to be moved to another apartment complex owned by Simtob Management at 1317 E. Kalamazoo St. This led to the city of Lansing eventually paying for hotel rooms for some of the displaced residents.
“There were inspections done and landlords that were supposed to have gone back and made corrections and those things didn’t get done and they weren’t followed by code,” said City Council president Carol Wood.
During the meeting, Spitzley admitted to not following up a list of recommendations by a board last year.
“I will accept responsibility in my role in this. Last year as chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Housing and Safety, we submitted a series of recommendations to the administration regarding code enforcement and the role of the City of Lansing’s Housing Ombudsman and I did not follow up on those recommendations – and that’s my fault.”
The council closed the meeting on Monday with a public comment forum, including numerous speeches from Lansing residents concerning Lansing’s lack of safe and accessible housing.
“Some of you guys have no shame… Lansing is in midst of a major housing crisis. About a year ago I asked three important questions: where’s the red line? When will city officials intervene? When will we see accountability? Three questions that have yet to be answered,” said Farhan Sheikh Omar, who previously ran for Lansing mayor in 2021.
Another part of Omar’s public comment included demanding Lansing City Attorney Jim Smiertka to look at him when he is addressing the council. Smiertka continued to ignore and even wave off Omar in response while looking down at his phone.
“So the people who are gonna be stuck with these million dollar lawsuits is gonna be people like me and my kids and the residents of this community, of this city. It’s a shame you’re not even looking at me and you’re on your phone… You have no shame Smiertka,” said Omar.
In response to the displaced residents, Spitzley requested president Wood to host a Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss what had occurred on March 22.
“What happened last week was a failure to those displaced but also to the residents of this city who count on us to do our jobs. I will accept responsibility in my role in this,” stated Spitzley, whose term ends Dec. 31, 2023.
To find out more information concerning what to do if you receive a red tag notice, visit Lansing’s code enforcement website: https://www.lansingmi.gov/277/I-Received-a-Letter-or-Placard#:~:text=A%20structure%20that%20is%20considered,complied%20by%20the%20Building%20Department.