JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has released its 80-page inspection report for the Eureka Gardens apartment complex, which has been under scrutiny since I-TEAM reports exposed deplorable living conditions, involving everything from mold and mildew concerns to gas and carbon monoxide leaks, exposed wires and faulty stairs.
The complex received a score of 62c during its February inspection, enough that the federal government renewed its $6 million contract with Global Ministries Foundation to operate Eureka Gardens as subsidized housing for another year.
A HUD representative told the I-TEAM that contracts are not generally denied for renewal unless the property receives less than 60- on a 100-point scale.
Bedbugs were noted in two units during the inspection, and 21 buildings had faulty and dangerous stairs with severe rusting.
Also noted were mold, a gas leak, broken appliances, collapsed ceilings and clogged plumbing.
The property is home to 400 families and over half the residents are children.
Resident Enoch Micoff, who moved into Eureka Gardens nine months ago, said he and his daughter are plagued by cockroaches.
“I hate when they come out at night, because my kid is sleeping, and I’m worried about them crawling over her and hear her screaming, 'Agh, cockroach! Come and get 'em,'” Micoff said.
He has reported the cockroaches to management to no avail.
The same story applies to the rust coming through his window and on the corners of his walls.
“I try to keep it up. I even paint. I don't call them. I just do it myself,” he said. “They did a little patch job right here. You can see where they painted over it. There is still a screen showing through.”
The inspectors did not search Micoff's apartment during their February visit.
In that visit, inspectors found 74 health and safety deficiencies in the sample of units they inspected and estimated that, if the entire property was inspected, they would have noted 380 health and safety violations.
Other problems inspectors noted included peeling paint, bathroom and kitchen issues, broken appliances and windows, clogged plumbing and cracks in the ceiling.
Inspectors noted that all smoke detectors were fixed in the inspected units.
HUD has strongly encouraged Global Ministries Foundation and its founder, the Rev. Richard Hamlet, to sell the property.
The foundation now has until August to fix the safety hazards noted in the inspection.
Crews were out making repairs Tuesday, even working right next door to Micoff to clean mold and paint.
Despite the problems, Micoff reminded the I-TEAM what's at stake for him and other residents.
“I love it. It's the only thing I can afford to live in,” Micoff said. “If they move me, there's no telling where I can afford to live at.”
GMF will have another magistrate hearing later this week concerning separate code violations from the city of Jacksonville, which are also focused on the stairs.
Mayor Lenny Curry, who spearheaded a code enforcement sweep of Eureka Gardens last fall after the News4Jax I-TEAM exposed deplorable living conditions at the complex, continues to press for cleanup and even change of ownership.
"The living conditions are deplorable," Curry said last month. "I explained to the secretary (of HUD) that when you walk into these homes and you see these living conditions, it's tragic. I also asked if we could be more connected to the rating process."
The city confirmed last month that all the interior code violations found at Eureka Gardens had been fixed.
HUD official has serious concern about Eureka Gardens
A letter from a HUD official to the owner of the Eureka Gardens apartments obtained by the I-TEAM expresses "serious concern about the conditions of several (Global Ministries Foundation) properties in Florida, specifically Eureka Gardens Apartments, Washington Heights (both in Jacksonville) and Windsor Cove (in Orlando)."
The three-page letter, addressed to GMF president Richard Hamlet from HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multifamily Housing Priya Jayachandran, followed an inspection of Eureka Gardens on March 17 and 18. It said conditions were worse than was reflected in a "barely passing" report based on February's inspection.
A HUD official told the I-TEAM on Tuesday that property owners often do cosmetic repairs when they know inspectors are coming. Based on the follow-up visit, those repairs were not sustainable and if Eureka Gardens was reinspected now, it would likely fail.
"HUD is continuing to closely monitor the conditions of all GMF properties to ensure that the tenants are provided with decent, safe and sanitary housing," Jayachandran wrote.
Near the end of the letter, Jayachandran wrote: "As a result of its on-going inspections and observations at these properties, HUD recommends that GMF begin to work toward dispositions of these properties to alternative ownership."
DOCUMENTS: HUD letter to Global Ministries
News4Jax exposed patchwork repairs at Eureka Gardens, with kitchen holes covered, mold-remediation work partially complete and walls covered with plastic in an apartment where a family with three children live.
HUD's letter said the inspector's recent visit documented electrical hazards, health and safety deficiencies, holes covered with painted duct work and serious erosion.
Hamlet released a statement, saying Global Ministries is committed to providing safe, affordable housing:
The leadership of Global Ministries’ affordable housing program takes the allegations raised by HUD’s Deputy Assistant Secretary very seriously. We are working closely with HUD and impacted stakeholders to continue the work underway to improve our properties. I want to assure our residents living at Eureka Gardens, Washington Heights and Windsor Cove that we are actively working with government housing officials to ensure those properties are in compliance with all federal and state laws, regulations and local codes. GMF remains unwavering in its commitment to restoring safe, comfortable and affordable housing for families in need.”
In addition to Eureka Gardens and Washington Heights, Global Ministries operates five other properties in Jacksonville and 56 other properties in seven other states with a total value of $500,000. Hamlet earns $485,000.