JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a code inspection sweep at Eureka Gardens found widespread health and safety problems, many questioned how the troubled complex passed its most recent federal inspection.
A 46-page report compiled by a Department of Housing and Urban Development inspector failed to note most of the problems uncovered in the city's recent sweep.
The inspector issued a passing score of 85b for the complex in August, but residents protested loudly to News4Jax and city officials, saying their living conditions were deplorable.
Jacksonville officials stepped in last week, conducting a two-day raid Friday and Monday that uncovered code violations in 163 out of 400 units.
According to the HUD inspection report, the inspector checked 24 units at random out of the 400 at the aging property, which was built in 1968. The property owners were also notified that the inspector was coming.
The inspector docked the complex 15 points out of a possible 100 for issues found in those units. The issues were mainly in the kitchen areas. Problems with refrigerators or stoves not working properly with broken burners or extinguished pilot lights being extinguished being the most common problem. Peeling paint was also one of the more common problems.
The lower-case letter "b" is added to a HUD score if one or more non-life-threatening health and safety deficiencies are found. The HUD inspector only noted five health and safety deficiencies:
- 1 broken picture frame that posed a tripping risk
- 2 units infested with roaches
- 1 tripping hazard from a bedroom cable
- 1 unit with noticeable mold and mildew
But Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry (pictured center) called out code enforcement plus the fire marshals office during the city's two-day sweep. Fire marshals alone tell News4Jax they cited eight major violations for the entire property, including far more than faulty smoke detectors in many of the units.
Crumbling stairs with rust and holes were found as a major problem throughout the complex. One tenant pulled back painted duct tape to expose a clear view of the property through what should have been a solid stair.
Windows that weren't in working order in case of an emergency, carbon monoxide concerns and a collapsed ceiling in one unit were all absent from the HUD report.
HUD did cite the complex's exterior for graffiti and vines growing through a fence.
But city inspectors spotted many more exterior issues, including a column detached from a building, leaking AC units dripping from window after window, a broken gas line, and exposed wires all over the property just steps from where children play.
The HUD inspection, which did not include any of those violations, made a projection: "If all buildings and units were inspected, it is projected that a total of 42 health and safety deficiencies would apply to the property."
That's far less than the 163 units found with violations in Jacksonville's code enforcement sweep.
Curry has sent a letter to several legislators, including Rep. Corrine Brown, Sen. Bill Nelson, Rep. Ander Crenshaw and Sen. Marco Rubio that describes his experience visiting the complex and requests their support.
"As we continue to inspect, strongly enforce, and monitor timelines for resolutions to every issue, we ask for your leadership and support of our efforts," Curry wrote. "As policy makers, you are also an integral part of the team that shares our commitment to improving the lives of Jacksonville citizens. I thank you for your service and request your leadership and support in addressing these issues that threaten the safety and well-being of our community."
The property's owner, Rev. Richard Hamlet with the Global Ministries Foundation, has not returned multiple calls from News4Jax requesting comment.
He's received $5 million in federal money in the last two years for Eureka Gardens alone. He owns five other properties in Jacksonville: the Market Street Apartments in Downtown, the Washington Heights Apartments in Northwest Jacksonville, the Springfield Residential One apartments in Hogan's Creek, the Southside Apartments in San Marco and Moncrief Village apartments in Northwest Jacksonville.
The Washington Heights property scored about 20 points lower than Eureka Gardens on its most recent HUD inspection.
Read the HUD inspection reports for Hamlet's properties:
|Eureka Gardens||Springfield Residential One|
|Market Street Apartments||Southside Apartments|
|Washington Heights Apartments||Moncrief Village|