JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. government notified the owners of the Eureka Gardens apartment complex last week that federal funds can only be used for improvements until the property passes a new inspection something next year. The feds also ordered about $1 million in distributions over the past three years be returned.
Global Ministry Foundation collects $7 million a year in federal subsidies to maintain seven Section 8 housing complexes in Jacksonville, including Eureka Gardens.
In a letter dated last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development notified Global Ministries Foundation and its president, Richard Hamlet, that the property is in such poor physical condition that there will be no more payments to the complex until the property has been restored to "decent, safe, and sanitary conditions as determined by a HUD inspection."
HUD also ordered Global Ministries to return all Section 8 distributions received since December 2012, the beginning of its contract with HUD.
Some repairs have been done over the past few months, including repairing unsafe stairwell repairs, At least 340 of the 400 units have physical decencies, and 50 of the violations are described as "exigent health and safety concerns," which includes dangerous mold, water damage and leaking gas pipes.
In a letter dated Friday, HUD ordered Global Ministries to fix all issues before Feb. 4, 2016, and provide HUD with written weekly updates of the progress of repairs, including photos, invoices and work orders. If the owner fails to meet the final deadline, HUD can take possession of the complex and redirect the rent and other payments that were being made to Global Ministries to fund necessary repairs. HUD is also threatening to "flag" Global Ministries, which would bar the foundation from purchasing any additional Section 8 housing complexes.
News4Jax learned in February Hamlet's foundation purchased a $1.5 million Christian retreat center in Tennessee for his ministry at the same time the organization was being cited for dilapidated complexes in Jacksonville and others around the nation. When confronted about the conditions, Hamlet teared up and claimed his heart is in his ministry. His tenants say they don’t feel the compassion.
"At this point, you shouldn’t be taking any money, you need to come and fix the properties that have all these issues," Eureka Gardens resident Tracy Grant said.
Grant says she hopes HUD takes Eureka Gardens away from Rev. Hamlet and flags his ministry so they won’t be able to own any more Section 8 properties. City Councilman Garrett Dennis agrees.
”I don’t think he should be able to buy any more. He was on the edge financially when he purchased Eureka Gardens here," Dennis said.
Jacksonville City Council member and certified CPA Anna Lopez Brosche said she’s worried about the mismanagement of federal dollars.
"The Global Ministries Foundation received revenues for its rents, and then they pay all their expenses, salary, property managers, expenses, and after paying those cash expenses, there’s money left over," Brosche said.
Global Ministries President Richard Hamlet responded to reporters' response on Tuesday, which reads in part:
"Since we have owned Eureka, I have never received any correspondence from the (Office of Pipeline Safety). I understand from our manager a representative of OPS is coming to the site this week. The Feb 4th deadline is the time allotted for us to correct physical deficiencies found under the Hud unit by unit inspection and perform other procedures required by HUD in this matter. The HUD Department of Enforcement Correction is now reviewing Eureka and a few of our other GMF sponsored HUD assisted properties that have experienced difficulties and challenges this past year. We are working with them to the fullest extent as we press forward to improve the Eureka property and be in compliance within the HUD subsidy contract terms. Our site management team has made much progress the past several weeks and we look forward to continued progress in the days ahead at Eureka."