Real Estate

Florida senators want “slumlords” held accountable for public housing conditions

Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson introduce bill to change HUD rules

Florida’s senators are deeply concerned about the living conditions for some of the state’s residents who live in federally subsidized housing and want the government to do more to hold the properties’ owners accountable.

To that end, Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Thursday that they are introducing a bill in the Senate that would “hold slumlords of low-income public housing accountable for poor conditions.”

The “Housing Accountability Act of 2016” would, among other things, require the Department of Housing and Urban Development to survey tenants living in subsidized housing twice a year about property conditions and management performance, and create new penalties for property owners who “repeatedly fail the tenant surveys.”

The Florida senators say that the bill is in response to the “deplorable” living conditions discovered in several federally subsidized housing developments in Florida, such as Eureka Gardens in Jacksonville, Windsor Cove Apartments in Orlando, and Stonybrook Apartments in Riviera Beach.

A joint release from Nelson and Rubio states that both senators visited a number of those developments recently and saw “unsafe and unhealthy living conditions” firsthand.

“In addition to legislation I’ve passed to improve the HUD inspection process, hold slumlords accountable for endangering people, and grant tenants needed temporary relocation assistance, I’m proud to partner with Sen. Nelson on this effort to give a greater voice to tenants living in public housing and make sure they never feel too intimidated to speak out,” Rubio said.

“I’ve seen the unsafe and unhealthy living conditions forced on the tenants at Global Ministries properties in Jacksonville and Orlando, and I’ve talked with residents about the history of mismanagement and refusal to make even the most basic improvements and repairs,” Rubio added. “We have public housing in Florida and across the country being mismanaged by these slumlords who are stealing federal tax dollars, and this needs to end.”

Rubio and Nelson referenced recent local and federal investigations that found instances of mold, structural deficiencies, leaky water and gas pipes, water damage, roach infestations, window damage and lead poisoning in some of the Florida developments.

“Everyone deserves a safe and clean place to call home,” Nelson said. “This bill will help ensure that the owners of federally-subsidized housing are held accountable for the condition of their properties, and it will give tenants the opportunity to file complaints directly with HUD, without fear of reprisal.”

The Housing Accountability Act of 2016 will now move to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee for consideration.

(Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified Marco Rubio as a Democrat. Rubio is a Republican. This article is updated to reflect that.)

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