Last week, Florida’s U.S. senators–Republicans Marco Rubio and Rick Scott–and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry urged U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Sec. Marcia Fudge to take immediate action to remedy unacceptable living conditions at Eastside Gardens Apartments and Eastside Terrace Apartments in Jacksonville, Florida.
Specifically, the senators urged Fudge to consider issuing a Notice of Default to transfer ownership of both properties to a responsible owner for rehabilitation and to safely relocate directly affected tenants. They also urged the department to reconsider its relationship with Andrew Podray with a recommendation that he be debarred from contracts under all federal housing programs.
The letter is below.
Dear Secretary Fudge:
We write to express our wishes for the next steps to guarantee safe and sanitary living conditions for our constituents at both Eastside Gardens Apartments and Eastside Terrace Apartments in Jacksonville, Florida.
As you know, following reports of unsafe and sanitary living conditions at both properties, emergency Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) inspections were respectively performed on May 13, 2021 and May 14, 2021, which resulted in scores of 24c/100 for Eastside Gardens Apartments and 6c/100 for Eastside Terrace Apartments, indicating numerous violations and potentially life-threatening conditions at each. The owner, Andrew Podray, was subjected to over $600,000 in civil money penalties. Furthermore, the 6c/100 score for Eastside Terrace Apartments is among the single lowest REAC inspection scores nationally of approximately 16,500 properties in the Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance program (PBRA).
On July 20, 2021, the City of Jacksonville Code Enforcement, and the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department inspected both properties, where they found numerous violations, including a broken firewall, inoperable fire alarms and sprinkler systems, and no carbon monoxide detectors, all of which are required by federal law or state and local code. They also found evidence of unpermitted equipment, chronic mold, severe rodent and pest infestations, structural damage, plumbing leaks, electrical issues, and broken appliances.
It is unacceptable that residents at Eastside Gardens Apartments and Eastside Terrace Apartments have been obligated to live under these conditions, and that their living situation continues to not meaningfully improve. As a result of physical deterioration from severe mismanagement, we request that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) consider issuing a Notice of Default to transfer ownership of both properties to a responsible owner for rehabilitation and to safely relocate directly affected tenants. Secondly, we request that HUD reconsider its relationship with Andrew Podray, with a recommendation for debarment from contracts under all federal housing programs.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to working with HUD to protect the people and families at Eastside Gardens Apartments and Eastside Terrace Apartments.