By Jessica Thomas Lewis
When I was in my early twenties, in the early to mid-nineties, I visited someone that lived in an apartment at Rolling Hills Apartments off of New Walkertown Road. Having grown up in a middle class neighborhood off Reynolda Road, Rolling Hills seemed very much the "other side" of town.
There has been an increase in arrests at the complex, she said, because of the increased police attention in the area. In the past year, there have been 395 arrests for such things as drugs, trespassing and assault, according to police-department records. In the previous year, there were 269 arrests. --source: Winston-Salem Journal, December 1, 2008.
I remember Rolling Hills as being dirty. Dry dirt, that seemed to coat the complex, devoid of grass or any kind of landscaping to make it feel like home. It was a dry summer and there seemed to be a layer of dirt everywhere. There were roaches. Twenty years ago, the living conditions were poor. The residents seemed apathetic. Rolling Hills is lower income, section 8 housing. Built in 1971, the complex has 110 rent-assisted units.
In 2008, there was an article written about the drug dealers, gun shots, roaches and rats. Residents complained of robberies and hearing gunshots daily. The Housing Authority of Winston-Salem resolved to solve the problems and undertake a complete renovation. HUD money was going to be used for new roofs and stairways, which were crumbling. The Winston-Salem Police Department said that they were aware of problems and had increased patrols.
Ramona Hambrick, who has lived at the complex since November 2005, said she hears gunshots almost every day and she is afraid for her great-grandsons' safety when they come to visit.
"On a day-to-day basis, someone gets robbed over here," she said. -- source: Winston-Salem Journal, December 1, 2008
In 2011, The Housing Authority of Winston-Salem sold Rolling Hills Apartment Complex to PK Management LLC. PK Management is a nationwide management company specializing in Section 8 housing properties. The property was to be subsidized by HUD and maintain city codes and rehabilitation standards.
In 2014 Rolling Hills was sold again and Aspen Companies Management LLC, based in Teaneck, NJ, began managing the complex.
Earlier this week, on June 28, 2016 the Winston-Salem Journal reported about raw sewage in apartments, ceilings falling in, mold, and other violations cited by the city. Aspen claims to be responsive to residents concerns but residents are claiming that they are having to wait days for a response and fixes come very slowly if at all. The city has discovered multiple violations of the minimum housing code and there will be hearings to determine if some units should be deemed unfit for human habitation.
“After the sewage came up, some plumbers came and put a camera down my toilet,” she said. “They said it’s just broken up pieces of pipe. (Management) hasn’t done anything.” -- source: Winston-Salem Journal, June 28, 2016
Why are humans habitating there? How long will people have to live like that? Where is the HUD money, the private funding that was supposed to bring improvement to this community? Throughout Winston-Salem you see signs of restoration and rebuilding. This area, including Rolling Hills, should be included in that rebirth. Rolling Hills should either be brought out of slum housing standards or razed to the ground. This area may be better served with a demolition of the complex. Residents should be in housing that meets a standard and does not place them in squalor and insecurity for their own safety.
Rolling Hills has the advantage of location. With the apartments out of the way that space has opportunity for many grand things! Just five minutes from downtown and close to two major highways, it's spot on New Walkertown Road has good road access and is close to the Delta Fine Arts Center and Evergreen Cemetery. It would be a fantastic spot for a city park or pool, botanical gardens or spot for meditation and recognition of East Winston's history. This spot now provides only unsafe and unsanitary living conditions for our most impoverished population. There are many opportunities for improvement. This is too long to wait for the fix.
What do you think? Should this apartment complex be demolished? If so, what should replace it? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.
Jessica Thomas Lewis
Jessica Thomas Lewis lives in Winston-Salem, NC. She is always looking for fun, free things to do with her kids.