MAROA, Ill. (WCIA) — At the beginning of June, a WCIA viewer called in with concerns about her living conditions at Country Place Apartments in Maroa. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees the property as part of its Rural Development program.

Carole Embry lives in subsidized housing and is not happy with the neglected maintenance work that is affecting several of the apartment units. She said tarps have been on the roof of one building for more than a year, and one neighbor had to move his bedroom set up into the living room because of water damage.

After not getting answers from the USDA, elected officials and Macon County, Embry reached out to WCIA for answers.

She originally moved into the Maroa apartments in 2022 for a change of pace. Embry wanted something quieter and safer than where she was before. When she moved in that spring, her windows were cloudy and she knew things needed to be updated inside.

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Embry moved in, got settled and started calling USDA representatives to get the ball rolling on needed maintenance for her unit and her neighbors’.

“I told her about the apartment that was getting a lot of rain in it and she said that was unacceptable,” Embry described.

Two years later, she knows that that neighbor still has water damage.

The problems range from smaller things like closet doors not functioning and kitchen cabinets bowing out, to larger things like old tarps on the roof and electrical meters falling off the back of certain apartments.

“Water coming in, dust from a farm field is not acceptable. Mold is not acceptable,” Embry said.

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She’s not the only one tired of dealing with these issues. Sandra Carberry just a few doors down is also fed up with the lack of maintenance and inspections.

“I guess the biggest problem is that you can not get any satisfaction for people to come over and just look at the item before they fix it,” Carberry said.

Carberry has lived in Country Place Apartments for three years and said she has never seen an inspector on the property. During Embry’s two years, she hasn’t either.

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But, that changed within two weeks of when WCIA emailed officials at USDA asking about their responsibilities when it comes to the care of apartments.

This was the response:

Access to affordable housing is vitally important for people living in rural communities. USDA remains committed to providing access to decent, safe and affordable housing so people in rural communities have a place they can call home.  

USDA does not own, operate, or manage properties it finances. Agency monitoring requirements, which includes inspections, for USDA-financed multi-family housing properties are available through this regulation eCFR :: 7 CFR Part 3560 — Direct Multi-Family Housing Loans and Grants.  

USDA is prioritizing staff to conduct an inspection of Country Place Apartments. 

USDA Rural Development spokesperson

Shortly after that reply, Embry called WCIA back. For the first time, she saw inspectors checking out the property.

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Officials were looking at the torn-apart roof, dilapidated siding and broken meter boxes. Those boxes have since been reattached, the siding is fixed, and now Embry hopes the roof is the next improvement to follow.

“They need to be updating the properties, they need to be caring for the properties, taking care of putting roofs on, whatever is needed,” Embry stated. “Those things need to be done so the structures are safe.”

Another big problem both women said they face is cold air coming through the windows in the wintertime. They hope inspections continue in the summer months so they don’t have to pile blanket after blanket on top of them when winter comes around.