JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – City Councilman Matt Carlucci was so upset by complaints about conditions at a Jacksonville apartment complex that he went to visit the complex Wednesday — and he was disturbed by what he found.
Carlucci told the I-TEAM the living conditions at Hilltop Village Apartments in Northwest Jacksonville were deplorable. He used his phone to document his findings and shared images from his tour of a tenant’s apartment, which included a mouse that was caught in a trap Tuesday.
Carlucci also took a picture of a photo the tenant showed him of her cat holding a mouse it had caught in its mouth.
Carlucci told the I-TEAM he was astounded that a family that was moved into an apartment unit that wasn’t supposed to be infested found mice not long after moving in. He said the rodent infestation is a source of frustration for all the community’s residents.
The councilman’s visit came two days after Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, called for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to relocate tenants at the complex impacted by the mice infestation and electrical problems, among other sanitary and safety issues.
“These people deserve better,” Carlucci said.
Rubio also called for HUD to review what steps the management company, Cambridge Management Inc., has taken to secure the complex in the wake of crimes committed at the property. Among them was a July 20 shooting that left three people injured.
“It is unacceptable that residents at Hilltop Village Apartments continue to live under unsafe and unsanitary conditions, including the severe rodent infestation and ongoing violent crime,” Rubio told HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge in a letter on Monday.
Conditions at the complex caught the senator’s attention following an investigation by the I-TEAM, which broke this story in April. As the I-TEAM found, families were finding mice everywhere, from couches to the cabinets underneath their sinks — even in a child’s dresser.
In response to our investigation, the city’s code enforcement division has issued thousands of dollars in violations against the complex’s owner for unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Rubio, who sent his own team to check things out, has repeatedly called for HUD to act.
Hilltop Village scored a 61c/100 on a Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) inspection, which is considered a passing grade — anything below 60 is a failing grade.
Rubio noted that seven other Cambridge-managed properties have failing scores. As a result, he’s also calling for more scrutiny of all properties the company runs. He is also backing legislation to overhaul HUD’s inspection process and hold landlords accountable.
In June, the City Council agreed to spend $140,000 to help tenants move out of Hilltop Village while the mice are exterminated. But, as Carlucci found Wednesday, none of that money has been disbursed.
Tenants have told the I-TEAM that the city’s social services department is making them jump through hoops to access that funding. Carlucci said he intends to find out why.
“It’s not suitable for anyone that lives in my city to have to live like that,” he said.