With heat out in Roanoke public housing, city works to make repairs

Frozen pipes lead to loss of heating as crews work to fix problems

ROANOKE, Va. – Some people living in Roanoke's largest public housing development are without heat Monday for the third straight day. They said they're shocked their heating system isn't working during the last few frigid days and nights.

David Bustamante oversees the 300 units at the Lansdowne Apartments for the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

"We know how difficult it is to be without heat when it's very, very cold.," he said. "We're doing everything we possibly can to remedy the problems."

He said they got crews out right away last week when they realized the boilers were having trouble in the cold, and pipes were freezing and breaking. They fixed the heating systems for many apartments and hope to finish the rest of the repairs soon.

The loss of heat comes during a stretch of more than a week with temperatures staying below freezing. With school canceled, 18-year-old Madina Musa and her three sisters huddled together Monday, watching TV.

"It's amazing that there's no school today, but we're just like, 'We're going to be cold all day.'" she said, laughing.

Her family is in one of many in the Roanoke public housing apartments that were built in 1951 and are either mostly or entirely without heating right now.

"It was like, what happened? What's going on?" Musa said.

They brought in other heaters and the whole family slept downstairs one night to stay warm.

Debra Pannell said she’s been miserable all weekend.

"I'm not all right. If that heater wasn't here, I would be freezing," she said.

She sent her granddaughter to live with relatives when the temperatures dropped Friday.

"It's been hard," she said. "This has been a very hard weekend. I feel like they need to treat us better than what they're doing."

The department has put some families up in hotels, using money from its budget.

"We're trying to do the best we can to resolve the issue," Bustamante said. "We understand that it's a problem and we're here to correct it."

He said the housing authority is always looking at upgrading the heating and cooling systems but they're limited by funding for major improvement projects.

He added that there are many complicating factors when the boilers have issues, including that some radiators need maintenance after issues stemming from frozen pipes are fixed, and many area contractors are facing a far higher than normal number of work requests.

Tenants can call their work order number if they have issues.