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Rubio Calls For Criminal Investigation Of Eureka Garden Owners
Sen. Marco Rubio on Friday called for a federal criminal investigation into the Tennessee-based owner of the Eureka Garden and Washington Heights subsidized apartment complexes in Jacksonville.
Rubio toured 400-unit Eureka Garden complex and called conditions there “atrocious” and “clearly not habitable for humans.” He labeled Global Ministries Foundation a slumlord and said the company operating as a non-profit is a sham.
He even told people working for Global Ministries during his tour what they are doing is horrible and inexcusable. The freshman senator, who is in his last year in office, told reporters he wants to “put (Global Ministries) out of business.”
Audrey Young, a spokeswoman for Global Ministries, said the problems at Eureka have existed for years and questioned where city officials and Rubio, who is in his sixth year in office, have been.
Rubio, City Council member Garrett Dennis, Mayor Lenny Curry and top officials at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have been critical of the situation at Eureka and some other complexes owned by Global Ministries. Their concerns have included mold, gas leaks, water damage, and the stairs, some of which were patched with painted tape. The company owns more than 60 complexes in several states and received $6.3 million in federal funding in 2014 to subsidize rent at its six Jacksonville properties.
Global Ministries has placed the complex and 10 other properties up for sale in the wake of constant criticism from local and federal government officials. Young predicted this week the properties won’t be on the market long, saying, “there has been a very enthusiastic response” from potential buyers. Young said Friday that the properties have become a “political football.”
Curry said his administration would closely monitor the sale and work closely with HUD.
While walking down stairs out of one upstairs apartment, a resident showed Curry a severely damaged, rusted support for the patio and apartment entrance above.
“Are you kidding me?” Curry asked. He became more agitated when he learned children lived in the apartment directly under the damaged patio.
“There’s babies living down there. Senator, you’re not going to believe this.”
Curry told the residents he would get code enforcement to inspect.
“It’s sad,” Curry said. “This is my city. … We are not going to tolerate this.”
Rubio wants the Justice Department to “look at the way (Global Ministry is) spending federal money because I think you could make the argument that they have stolen taxpayer money that was supposed to be used to provide for these people and instead have used it for their own gain.”
“These people should never be allowed to have another contract from HUD,” he said.
Rubio said there also has to be reforms at HUD, which he said housing Secretary Julian Castro knows.
HUD needs to change its criteria for judging the properties to take into account factors such as mold and bedbugs, change the contracts so there is more leverage over the owners, and determine how many similar situations there are to Eureka, Rubio said. He said the grading system is “broken.” He also suggested requiring the owners to have a bond so that if they violate their contract HUD could leverage that bond to make necessary improvements.
Rubio said it was appalling to see Americans living in those conditions, particularly in a complex subsidized by taxpayers.
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