Class-action lawsuit over Fairway Oaks to continue

Residents of HabiJax homes complain of cracked foundations, rust, mold

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Despite an effort by the city of Jacksonville to have it dismissed, a class-action lawsuit over broken foundations, rusting doors and mold at 85 HabiJax homes in Northwest Jacksonville will move forward.

More than a dozen people who live in the Fairway Oaks community showed up at a hearing Thursday, saying their homes are substandard and built on an old dump site. In recent years, the I-TEAM has documented their complaints, including cracked foundations, rusted doors and mold.

"My concrete slabs are all cracked up and nails are falling out of my ceiling, and that was happening to my neighbors," resident Shirley Dempsey said. "So, we asked Habitat to let us go because our homes are sinking and because they're sinking. They’re not livable."

Residents said they've been dealing with problems with their homes for about 10 years and they want money to move out. Not only are their complaints about the structures, they said there are health problems with their children.

Judge Karen Cole, who is hearing the case, said she volunteered on the project and helped hang siding during the build 17 years ago. Despite that, she said it won’t affect her objectivity.

Neither side had an objection to her staying on the case. Residents said that means she’ll know first-hand that these homes are substandard.

Cole did not throw out the suit Thursday, but she did ask the resident’s attorney to amend the lawsuit. While this will delay the case, the residents said they've waited for a decade and they are willing to wait a little longer.

"It’s been a long time coming. Been a real long time coming," resident Nathaniel Borden said of Thursday's ruling. "Now we’re hoping this is the start of the justice that is due to us."

The city's attorney said he asked that the case be dismissed  because the residents’ lawsuit was filed with many factual errors.  

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