JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is calling for an immediate investigation into the Monaco Arms apartments in Jacksonville, following numerous complaints about an active gas leak which he says remain unaddressed. In a letter to Marcia Fudge, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Rubio expressed serious concerns about the safety of residents at the property.
According to the letter, Rubio’s office received complaints on July 10, detailing potential safety hazards at Monaco Arms, including reports of gas leaks that the property management failed to resolve. Some residents claimed their natural gas bills reached exorbitant amounts due to leaking gas meters situated near their front doors. Additionally, the Senator pointed out that large propane tanks were located in precarious positions, near residential units and a playground.
HUD refuted Rubio’s claims in a statement and said it has visited the complex as it works to find a permanent solution.
When the I-TEAM visited the complex Thursday, Monaco Arms appeared to be operating normally, with grounds crews conducting routine tasks. Several propane tanks were about a dozen feet away from an apartment building, adjacent to the playground. The tanks seemed to be in good condition. According to residents, the gas from these tanks is utilized to power their appliances.
When asked for comment, property managers at Monaco Arms stated they were not authorized to provide any statements. A manager representing the company later reached out, saying they were working on a response.
Rubio’s letter expressed frustration at HUD’s apparent lack of response, suggesting that the agency has not taken any action despite being made aware of the potential dangers on July 10.
“Given HUD’s unresponsiveness thus far, I am concerned the residents of Monaco Arms are not experiencing the safe living standards they are guaranteed by law. If a representative of the agency has not visited the apartment complex since July 10, 2023, I urge you to dispatch someone immediately to take action,” Rubio said in an emailed statement. “This must include alleviation of any active gas leaks on the property, relocation of propane tanks to a safer place, updated REAC inspections, and a Management and Occupancy Review (MOR) for the property.”
The I-TEAM reached out to a spokesperson for HUD after receiving the letter. The spokesperson sent the following statement refuting Rubio’s claims:
Resident health safety is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. We are closely monitoring the situation and working with the owner to improve management at the site as we evaluate changes to the gas service.
HUD is working with the property owner to provide tenant education as we improve safety. A gas leak is a serious health and safety issue. To maintain personal safety, gas odors must be reported immediately from a safe area away of the odor. After calling the gas provider and 911 for help, Monaco Arms residents should contact HUD’s contract administrator, North Tampa Housing Development Corporation (NTHDC) at 800-982-5232, or PBCAContactCenter@cgifederal.com. NTHDC follows-up on each reported situation until it is resolved.
HUD staff recently visited Monaco Arms to monitor conditions and is actively working with the property owner and NTHDC. The property owner and AmeriGas are coordinating on the transition from pipeline to tanks.
Monaco Arms, which is classified as affordable housing, accommodates many residents receiving government assistance through Section 8, making it subject to HUD inspections. The last inspection took place on August 3, 2021. HUD gave the complex a 95 out of 100 REAC score for the complex.
The I-TEAM reached out to the city of Jacksonville for code enforcement and fire marshal records related to the property. The city is working on fulfilling the request. Phil Perry, a spokesperson for the city, said the gas contractor did inspect the property after the July 10 complaint and did not find any active safety concerns.