JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Mayor's Office and the Jacksonville Housing Authority responded Thursday to the News4Jax I-TEAM's request for comment after a third-party building inspector released his 23-page report discovering numerous flaws with one of the HabiJax built homes in the Fairway Oaks neighborhood.
Last month, the I-TEAM asked William Chandler of Property 360, LLC, one of Florida’s top building inspectors, to walk through one of the homes in Fairway Oaks. Chandler measured growing cracks, lowering elevation and even discovered termites at one of the homes.
Earlier this month, he released his report on the findings, which said structural cracking is increasing significantly, the concrete mix used was inadequate and the home was built on top of an existing slab. The findings also showed that the structure of the home is deficient and will require significant and reoccurring repairs.
For nearly two months, the News4Jax I-TEAM has been digging into reports that show the area in Northwest Jacksonville, in which HabiJax chose to build the 85 homes in 2000, is located near a landfill that may not have been lined in the 1950s.
Within five years after the homes were built by HabiJax and 10,000 volunteers in 17 days, residents said that they noticed their homes were shaking and unsettled, and homeowners also began complaining about cracked slabs, sinking, mold and termites.
Mayor's Office responds to report, Fairway Oaks residents' concerns
Tia Ford, a spokesperson for the mayor's office, told the I-TEAM that the city has investigated and evaluated the concerns.
Ford said the city's sentiments are the same as those issued in a statement by HabiJax on May 13 that said, "all the complaints stem from lack of maintenance, and not from poor construction."
The city will not be relocating the residents of Fairway Oaks, Ford said, and the issue is specifically between HabiJax and Fairway Oaks residents.
Earlier this month, when the Jacksonville Housing and Community Development Commission considered granting more than $840,000 to HabiJax for new construction, residents asked that money proposed for future HabiJax projects be diverted to help them, instead.
Three City Council members have since voiced that the City Council should deny HabiJax the funding it requested until the problems at Fairways Oaks are fixed.
Ford said Thursday that she is not aware of any impact the $800,000 plus being requested by HabiJax for homes in NewTown may have, since the funds are unrelated to Fairway Oaks.
JHA responds to 23-page inspection report of Fairway Oaks home
In addition to the 23-page report by the third-party building inspector, the I-TEAM obtained a 2007 draft of a lawsuit prepared by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid against HabiJax, which cited a 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.
Documents prepared by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid show that the Fairway Oaks neighborhood was built on part of an old landfill that was first turned into city housing in the 1970s, and later demolished due to settling in the 1990s.
On Thursday, Ford McKinnies, president and CEO of the Jacksonville Housing Authority, told the I-TEAM that JHA's only involvement was to do the deed and sell a piece of land that still had old HUD apartments on it to HabiJax.
HabiJax then had the opportunity to demolish the old apartments, test the land, build or not build, McKinnies said.
McKinnies said JHA was not involved and neither is it liable.
Habitat of Humanity of Jacksonville CEO and President Mary Kay O’Rourke released the following statement in May when the I-TEAM began its investigation:
“Every home in Fairway Oaks was inspected by the City of Jacksonville and passed final inspection in the year 2000. We had complaints from some residents in 2005. We took the complaints seriously and had independent engineers and contractors address issues of concern. Homes were re-inspected by the City in 2007. Reports from both inspections stated there were no construction-related problems, Florida Building Code violations or structural failures.
"In 2007, the professional engineer for the City of Jacksonville stated: ‘In my professional opinion and that of the State of Florida licensed building inspectors present, we concur that the problems at Fairway Oaks are not construction code violations or code related but rather post construction and/or neglected maintenance problems.'
"In 2013, our organization contracted a licensed senior civil engineer who conducted a similar inspection of more than 51 homes. He stated: ‘It is the engineer’s opinion that all the complaints stem from lack of maintenance and not from poor construction.’
"The homeowners are represented by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and HabiJax cannot make additional comment regarding further resolution.
"Habitat for Humanity of Jacksonville (HabiJax) is proud of its mission to build safe and sustainable communities. We have built and financed for nearly 2,000 Jacksonville families who might not otherwise been able to become homeowners.”