Some public housing authorities don’t seem to be tackling bed bugs as aggressively as they should.
Many public housing agencies (like other landlords) only treat units as residents report them infested, neglecting to inspect adjacent attached units. It’s not surprising that many infestations continue a year or more after the initial treatment.
Other public housing agencies leave bed bug inspections to apparently inexperienced building managers rather than enlisting experienced professionals, and some lack basic education about the pests, blaming tenants for the presence of bed bugs, and erroneously linking infestations to cleanliness of tenants’ homes.
Yesterday The Patriot-News reported that the Harrisburg (PA) Housing Authority seems to be reacting more aggressively than many public housing authorities:
The Harrisburg Housing Authority is dealing with regular bed bug uprisings. Before 2006, the problem was nonexistent, said LeRoy Robinson, an assistant to the authority’s executive director. The most intense problems have been at Morrison Towers, a 12-story high-rise for seniors on Chestnut Street.
Authority officials received a complaint from a resident about two months ago. The authority had the unit sprayed. But after another 10 or so complaints of bedbugs, they decided to spray the entire building.
To prevent a comeback, they now spray parts of the building twice a month, Robinson said. Treating all 12 floors costs $12,000. “It’s an expensive proposition, but you have to do it,” Robinson said.
It took two months and ten complaints before they treated the whole building. Perhaps they could have responded more swiftly, but this is more aggressive than many of the cases cited above.
Of course, one spraying, even of the whole building, is unlikely to suffice. Traditional treatments don’t kill bed bug eggs, which will hatch in 10-14 days after treatment. Any units with bed bugs need to be retreated at 10-14 day intervals until all bed bugs are gone and there are no further bites. And since many do not react to bed bug bites, whether bed bugs are gone can be hard to assess.
Regular follow-up inspections and treatments are vital, since tenants may be continually exposed to the same bed bugs originally brought in. Staff and tenants need education about how to prevent such reinfestations.
Public Housing Authorities would do well to consider the aggressive approach being taken by Toronto Community Housing, in refurbishing public housing units (sealing cracks is just one focus), setting treatment standards and response times for pest control vendors, and developing enterprise initiatives that hire and train residents to work as expert bed bug pest control technicians.
As voters and taxpaying citizens, we should all take an interest in the way our local public housing authorities respond to complaints of bed bugs, and pressure public officials to improve these responses.