JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Senate passed a bill Tuesday spearheaded by Florida's Marco Rubio to reforms how the Department of Housing and Urban Development inspects public housing projects like the troubled Eureka Gardens and Washington Heights complexes in Jacksonville.
Rubio added three amendments to HR 2577 to improve HUD's oversight of subsidized housing projects:
The House had previously passed the bill, which will now go to conference committee to work out the differences with the Senate bill.
The Senate vote comes less than a week after Rubio paid a personal visit to Eureka Gardens.
“There’s still more work to be done," Rubio said Thursday. "We have to keep organizations like Global Ministries Foundation, that are slumlords, from getting a hold of more properties. We have to make sure that Eureka Garden is also fixed, but I’m happy that we were able to make progress this week – just a week after we visited Eureka Garden in Jacksonville.”
Rubio said he's also talking with the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service about investigating Global Ministries, the owner of Eureka Gardens, Washington Heights and four other housing complexes in Jacksonville.
The Rev. Richard Hamlet's Global Ministries Foundation issued a statement Thursday welcoming "Rubio's concerns for lower income Floridians," but adding that it was unfortunate he went on television "making false allegations and criticizing the GMF's affordable housing complex prior to setting foot on the property."
“Given that Sen. Rubio has failed to acknowledge the tremendous improvements GMF has made since acquiring the long-troubled Eureka Gardens property only three years ago," Hamlet said. "It appears that the false accusations against GMF and HUD by him and local politicians may have more to do with HUD Secretary Castro’s name being mentioned for national office than with a genuine interest in Floridians’ need of safe and affordable housing."
Hamlett added that Rubio's accusations could end up hurting low-income Floridians.
"The senator’s statements may have a direct and chilling effect on companies seeking to invest in rehabilitation of long-neglected housing for low-income Americans," Hamlet said.
Hamlett added that GMF "was committed to finding solutions to systemic issues in low-income housing for the benefit of all residents, whether these solutions involve the continued investment of large amounts of capital in its properties, the sale of certain properties, or both."
Rubio responded with a statement of his own:
Global Ministries Foundation residents who live in their rundown properties know this behavior from their slumlords all too well. It's exactly how the rats infesting their homes lash out when they're cornered and know they're in trouble.
"Instead of spending their profits hiring D.C. lobbyists and public relations consultants to come up with ridiculous statements, GMF should spend the money to correct the slum-like conditions at apartments they own in multiple states."
The Jacksonville fire marshal did confirm Thursday that all units at Washington Heights had working carbon monoxide detectors.
Earlier this month, GMF listed its Jacksonville properties among 11 put up for sale.