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HabiJax homes built on land unable to support them, document says

Lawsuit draft cites report finding arsenic in soil samples from site of homes

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some of the 85 homes built in one Northside neighborhood in 17 days by HabiJax and 10,000 volunteers in 2000 were not properly cleared of tree roots before concrete slab foundations were poured, and the concrete slabs were poured before the land was evaluated by city building inspectors, according to a draft of lawsuit prepared by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid against the nonprofit.

But since the homes in the Fairway Oaks neighborhood were constructed, homeowners said they had issues with their houses sinking and slabs cracking.

The News4Jax I-TEAM obtained the 2007 draft of the lawsuit, which points out a breach of the contract by HabiJax, stating, "The land where the homes were built was unable to fully and adequately support the homes, thus causing the homes' walls and floors to crack."

The draft also cited the limited soil investigation of Golfbrook Terrace Apartments – which were previously located at what is now the Fairway Oaks neighborhood -- prepared by Ellis and Associates in 1997.

The report found that pesticides, chromium, lead and arsenic were detected in one soil sample taken from Golfbrook Drive and Brook Forest Drive and aluminum was found in four of the soil samples.

And an arsenic test was also conducted and 12 soil samples were collected. The report showed that all of the samples contained arsenic.

The draft of the lawsuit was prepared by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid on behalf of 14 different homeowners, including Donna Johnson.

Johnson, along with many other homeowners, said just years after purchasing their homes from HabiJax, their dreams turned into nightmares, and even split in half.

“From one side of the house to the other, all the way in the house and you can even see it on the outside of the house, all the way across,” Johnson said.

Johnson is now going into her 17th year paying a mortgage on her home and she said she’s just wondering if HabiJax is waiting until year 25, when the mortgages are all paid off, so this issue will no longer be their problem.

“It’s scary, you know? I don't even drink the water. I buy bottled water all the time. I have to bathe in it, but I don't drink it,” Johnson said. “It’s got to get better. They have to do something or else it’s going to always be there because I want my dream back. I want my dream home back.”

The I-TEAM reached out the Mayor’s Office and it directed the request to Habitat for Humanity of Jacksonville. The I-TEAM also reached out to Councilwoman Katrina Brown, who has told residents that she is working on the issue, but she has not responded yet.

Habitat for Humanity will not be making a comment since the homeowners are represented by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.