JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Within the last two weeks, four more Jacksonville City Council members have toured homes in the Fairway Oaks neighborhood after seeing their fellow councilmen and women, the mayor, and a state senator tour the property.
Monday night, the homeowners made sure potential new lawmakers knew about their troubles.
Residents of the HabiJax neighborhood, who have been begging the city for help for the past decade after their homes began sinking and splitting, took their concerns to a candidate forum Monday night featuring eight state representative candidates.
For over 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, Fairway Oaks residents said that they noticed their homes were shaking and unsettled, and homeowners also began complaining about cracked slabs, sinking, mold and termites.
In June, 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.
Several 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.
All eight candidates for state Districts 13 and 14 that were at Monday's debate seemed to be on board, agreeing that HabiJax should not receive funding until something is done.
“I think we need to find a way to not leave those families hanging,” District 13 candidate Mark Griffin said.
“I think this is an issue that HabiJax clearly has to come to the table, and it has to be mediated,” District 13 incumbent Reggie Fullwood said.
“For everyone who lives in Fairway Oaks, a proper settlement needs to be given to all of you from everyone who is responsible,” District 14 candidate Leslie Jean-Bart said.
The eight candidates for state representative made different pleas on topics ranging from police brutality to investments on the Northside during Monday's debate, but all seemed to be in agreement when this question was posed to the panel: Will you authorize or support future funding for HabiJax with no resolution?
So far there has been no resolution for Fairway Oaks residents, who are still pushing for HabiJax to be denied the city funding.
“We're just asking them, once again, to get back to the table and come up with a solution,” Homeowners Association president Nathaniel Borden said. “This is the same thing we've been asking from the beginning. Actually start working on a solution. They haven't gotten there yet. We still have not gotten the meeting with HabiJax, the meeting with the lawyers, to actually come up with a solution, and that's basically what we're still asking them to do.”
District 14 candidate Christian Whitfield said those who signed off on the houses and land should be held responsible.
“To the people who gave the land and said the land was fine (and) the people who built the houses and said the houses were fine, you hold them accountable,” Whitfield said. “That's the way you do it. If that means jail time, then guess what that means: jail time.”