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Fairway Oaks residents feel encouraged after meeting with mayor

Residents say HabiJax homes poorly constructed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Just one week after Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry walked through the Fairway Oaks neighborhood in Northwest Jacksonville, he met Wednesday with the residents who blame HabiJax for poor construction that left their homes falling apart.

Nathaniel Borden, president of the Fairway Oaks Homeowners Association, and several residents said they feel encouraged and hopeful after meeting privately with Curry Wednesday afternoon to brainstorm a solution. Curry said he will do everything in his power to resolve the issues at Fairway Oaks. 

Earlier this month, the mayor's office said the city's sentiments were the same as those issued in a statement by Habitat for Humanity of Jacksonville on May 13 that said, "All the complaints stem from lack of maintenance and not from poor construction."

But after spending two hours last week visiting nearly a dozen homes in Fairway Oaks, Curry said he no longer agrees that the cracking slabs seen in the homes are a result of lack of maintenance. 

"I certainly saw some troubling things in the homes. Good, hardworking people out here that are just trying to get through life, which is what most of us are trying to do," Curry said last week. 

I-TEAM: Mayor tours HabiJax homes in Fairway Oaks neighborhood

Curry said he has reached out to HabiJax, and the nonprofit told him they are willing to make things right. He said he was so troubled by what he saw last week that he sent city building inspectors out to look at several properties on Friday.

"We believe he's going to do everything in his power to actually help us and actually fix the issue," Borden said.

Borden said the mayor started out the meeting expressing his concerns. He told them that his first concern is the health of the residents. 

For two months, the News4Jax I-TEAM has been digging into reports that showed 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.

During Wednesday's meeting, Curry told also residents that he would never sign off on anything that would require them to stay on contaminated land. The Environmental Protection Agency will also be working with the mayor's office.

"Just yesterday, the federal EPA came out and actually stated they want to come out and do more soil boring on the soil. So that will probably be the first thing before getting back with the mayor. They will be contacting the EPA and see when they're going to come back out and do those soil borings so that's the next up," Borden said Wednesday. 

As soon as Curry finds out when the EPA will be able to do more testing, Borden said, residents will meet again with the mayor to go over the results. 

"I feel like the mayor is stepping up to the plate. I really do. I really feel like the city of Jacksonville is stepping up to the plate," said Fairway Oaks resident Detrese Mixon. "I feel like the mayor is going to push the issue to make sure we are taken care of."

Three new Jacksonville City Council members are also expected to walk through the Fairway Oaks neighborhood next week.

Borden told the I-TEAM Tuesday that members of the NAACP were also walking through the neighborhood to check out the condition of the homes.