I’ve lived in the James Bland Public Housing in Alexandria for seven years with my 19-year-old daughter and 9-month-old granddaughter. I came to a V.O.I.C.E. meeting last year because of my electric bill. When I first moved to James Bland, I didn’t pay electric. All of a sudden, the Public Housing Authority said they were going to begin charging residents for electric. I had to pay a $120 security deposit. My first bill was for $390, and the next bill was $306. I was unemployed after a back injury and taking care of my daughter and granddaughter. I had no $300 to give Dominion Power. It turned out other people at the V.O.I.C.E. meeting had the same issue, plus other concerns -- severe sewage back-ups, mold, rats, roaches,bedbugs, broken heaters.
Two hundred Bland residents and V.O.I.C.E. leaders held an Action with the Housing Authority director to demand changes. After 14 days, 21 units were inspected and brought up to code. I now pay $0 electric. But our work is not done.