‘Residents are tired’: Councilwoman leads meeting at Hilltop Village Apartments amid complaints over living conditions

HUD administrator toured property Wednesday

An update on a News4JAX I-TEAM investigation Rodent Residential. City councilwoman Ju'Coby Pittman met with HUD officials and residents of the Hilltop Village apartments Wednesday night to follow up on residents' complaints.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman on Wednesday evening met with representatives of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and residents of the Hilltop Village Apartments.

The theme of the meeting was “Justice For Hilltop Residents.” There were signs and T-shirts with the slogan printed on them.

The News4JAX I-TEAM has been investigating complaints at the Northwest Jacksonville apartment community where a mice infestation was found in April of last year.

Mayor Lenny Curry’s office ordered a sweep of Hilltop Village Apartments after the first I-TEAM story on the complex revealed a mice infestation so severe mice were living and defecating in clothes, nesting inside kitchen cabinets, found in a box under a tenant’s sink and burrowing in couches. The investigation got the attention of U.S. Sen Marco Rubio’s office, which sent its own team to check things out.

Inspectors have been issuing fines against the owner since then — which have amounted to tens of thousands of dollars.

Sareeda James, a tenant who was at the meeting told News4JAX she’s staying somewhere else for her and her child’s safety while her apartment is cleaned.

“When you leave a child in the room, you’ve got to worry about something in the bed with her,” James said.

Pittman has been working to address the problems at Hilltop Village, and it’s not the first time she’s held a meeting with residents of the apartment complex.

“The residents are tired. They want these issues addressed. I want them addressed,” Pittman said. “Cambridge Management has new managers, but again, I don’t want to keep meeting just to be meeting. I need them to be accountable, I want HUD to be accountable -- you know, the score they got of 61 -- I’ve never known someone to get a score of 61 and still be in business.”

Hilltop Village scored a 61c/100 on a Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) inspection, which is considered a passing grade — anything below 60 is a failing grade.

News4JAX also spoke with Jose Alvarez, a HUD administrator who toured the property Wednesday. He said the top priority is helping the residents in his community.

“Our top priority is the safety and wellbeing of all the residents here,” Alvarez said. “And as you heard tonight, we were listening to the complaints they had, the troubles that they have on the property, and we want to assure them that HUD is here all the way to the end.”