JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD) asking that the owner of two Jacksonville apartment complexes be removed from ownership and banned from owning any other federally-subsidized properties.
The letter, which is also signed by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, comes after an I-TEAM investigation into Eastside Terrace Apartments and Eastside Gardens, where residents asked News4Jax to help with their unsafe living conditions, rodents, roaches and mold.
In May, one month after our first report, emergency Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) inspections found potentially life-threatening conditions at both complexes resulting in failing scores. Eastside Gardens received a score of 24c out of 100 and Eastside Terrace received a score of 6c out of 100, which Rubio’s office says is among the single lowest REAC scores in the country out of 16,500 properties. A score under 60 is considered failing, and the “c” in the score indicates that one or more fire safety or health & safety deficiencies were observed.
Both properties are owned by Andrew Podray, who was fined more than $600,000 in civil penalties for violations found.
Two months later, Jacksonville Code Enforcement and the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department inspected the apartments and found a number of violations including a broken firewall, no carbon monoxide detectors, chronic mold, severe rodent and pest infestations, and electrical and structural issues.
The letter sent to HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge says in part:
“As a result of physical deterioration from severe mismanagement, we request that the U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD) consider issuing a Notice of Default to transfer ownership of both properties to a responsible owner ... We request that HUD reconsider its relationship with Andrew Podray, with a recommendation for debarment from contracts under the federal housing programs.”
Podray, who has owned the complexes for 13 years, previously told the I-TEAM the properties have slipped in the past year and a half because of the pandemic. He said the eviction moratorium prohibited him from kicking out residents who weren’t following the rules for upkeep and said pest control from unit to unit was difficult with COVID-19 concerns.
Podray told the I-TEAM he replaced the roofs, the washing machines and upped the pest control, spending over $100,000 of his own money. However, he says fixing these problems will be much more than he can handle, given the small margin he makes.