Tenant: City knew about people living in building illegally for years

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — About 100 New Haven residents are scrambling to find a place to stay because the city says they were living in their building illegally.

Some of those tenants say they are positive the city knew they were living there.

The building inspector says tenants have 30 days to move their stuff out, but they still cannot sleep there because it is not safe.

One man moving out feels lucky he has family to stay with. The Clifford family is helping their son Andy move out of Daggett Street Square.

“It sucks, but I can’t do anything,” said Andy Clifford. “I’m powerless in this situation.”

They were evicted this week. He says artists have lived in the building since the 70’s. It’s zoned for industrial use, not residential, but about 100 people used the space to work and live in.

RELATED STORY: Residents forced out of New Haven building

“I think it’s always been a kind of don’t ask, don’t tell type of thing where people live here, but your not supposed to talk about it,” said Clifford.

The city says they just learned about them living there about a week ago.

“The non-conforming use was made apparent on a recent fire call,” said city spokesperson Laurence Grotheer.

A new fire marshal and building inspector who just started on the job saw this place and decided to shut it down. Clifford says the city has known about people living in the building for years, but looked the other way.

“They’ve done inspections here many times and the landlords have talked about it before that they knew that people were living here, but technically they weren’t supposed to,” said Clifford.

Clifford pays $700 a month and says the owner is not helping them relocate. He’s moving back in with mom and dad, but feels sorry for those who don’t have that option.

“They’ve been relying on this space for a long time and it was a cheap way to be off the street,” said Clifford. “It was definitely a mixture of artists and people who needed housing here.”

The building inspector says they are determining whether or not the building’s owner, Honey Damaghi of Kings Point, N.Y., will be fined for this.

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