JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has renewed a contract with Global Ministries Foundation to receive $6 million to operate Eureka Gardens as a Section 8 housing project for another year.
The complex has been under scrutiny since News4Jax investigative reports exposed deplorable living conditions, involving everything from mold and mildew concerns to gas and carbon monoxide leaks, exposed wires and faulty stairs. The reports last year led to a citywide code enforcement sweep, spearheaded by Mayor Lenny Curry.
The city confirmed last month that all the interior code violations found at Eureka Gardens had been fixed.
HUD said it can't release the score of the most recent inspection until April 16 because it's subject to appeal, but said contracts are not generally renewed unless the property receives at least a 60 on a 100-point scale.
Global Ministries' founder, Rev. Richard Hamlet, said last month that the complex had passed its recent HUD inspection, but sources told News4Jax that the score was “barely passing.”
Global Ministries, which is allowed to release its inspection score, told News4Jax the interior and exterior apartments scored 74 points, although two issues on the playground resulted in a 12-point penalty.
"Our Eureka Garden community families and the management team should take great pride in the collective work done to achieve the recent passing HUD REAC inspection score," Hamlet said in a statement late Tuesday afternoon. "We remain committed to our partnership with HUD and focused on continuing the steady progress on restorations which began just after we acquired Eureka Gardens three years ago. My heartfelt thanks go to our community leaders, neighbors and residents for their support and guidance as we have worked diligently in partnership with HUD to provide Jacksonville families with comfortable, safe and affordable homes at Eureka Gardens."
Global Ministries owns 61 housing complexes in eight states. Hamlet established one umbrella company in Jacksonville to run Eureka Gardens and five other housing communities.
The complex's score from last year was tossed out by HUD in a rare move after News4Jax reports shed light on conditions at the complex that residents raised questions about how the complex could have passed inspection.
Crumbling staircases, leaking air conditioning units, mold and mildew were among the issues tenants said they were experiencing.
Jacksonville's code enforcement division swarmed the property in October for a two-day inspection raid after the reports. Officials found violations in 165 units that inspectors encountered. There are 400 units on the property.
Conditions in one unit were so bad that brought a city council member's assistant to tears and led council members to call Curry to the complex to see the conditions for himself.
He described them as “heartbreaking” and promised to ensure changes at the complex.
To deal with the issues at Eureka Gardens and other subsidized housing complexes in Jacksonville, the city created a group of representatives from LISC, Family Foundations of Northeast Florida, the Jacksonville Housing Authority, members of City Council and key members of Curry's staff.
Curry said the goal is for the group to engage HUD “in a collaborative process that will systematically address the challenges facing Eureka Gardens as well as other privately owned multi-family properties with HAP contracts.”
Curry said in a letter to HUD Secretary Julian Castro that he wants to explore the possibility of local oversight of the HUD inspection process, developing penalty and enforcement strategies for HAP contracts and implementing a crime-free multi-family housing program with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office in HUD-assisted properties.
“The city of Jacksonville is committed to working with your department to ensure that all residents of subsidized multi-family housing in Duval County receive the benefit of safe, clean and healthy living conditions,” Curry wrote.
That goal requires ongoing cooperation between the city and HUD, Curry said.
Curry sent copies of his letter to Castro to Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Bill Nelson, Rep. Ander Crenshaw and Rep. Corrine Brown.