JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Marcia Fudge, the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, met Monday with residents of Jacksonville homes who are receiving help from HUD.
Those properties include the Sulzbacher Village and the Hilltop Village Apartments. Hilltop has been the subject of an I-TEAM investigation in the past. It is now under new management – and during her visit Fudge called the property a “success story.”
In February, Councilor Ju’Coby Pittman met with HUD representatives in with regard to the conditions within the complex† Mayor Lenny Curry’s office ordered Hilltop to be swept after the… first I-TEAM story about the complex a mouse infestation revealed how serious mice lived and defecate in clothes, nesting in kitchen cabinets, found in a box under a tenant’s sink and burrowing in sofas. The investigation caught the attention of the office of US Senator Marco Rubio, who sent his own team to investigate the cases.
Inspectors have handed out fines amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.
Monday’s meeting with residents came after Fudge visited the complex. Under the new management, Fudge said changes and improvements have been made in recent months.
“Of course we have some challenges. This was exciting to me because this was a place where they’ve made changes, where people feel good about where they live, where owners take responsibility. This is a success story,” says Fudge. “But we don’t have success stories everywhere. So my job here today is just to listen to what people are saying to me and to tell me what circumstances they live in and what we can do to make them better – and let them know that we care enough. do our part too. †
Pittman was also there on Monday — and she, too, noted the improvements.
“I’ve seen a huge change,” Pittman said. “A transformative change in five months.”
Fudge said Hilltop was a “disaster” five months ago, but the HUD team has been there regularly. She hopes to do that in every property managed by HUD.
According to Pittman, the area around the complex needs an infrastructure upgrade. We asked Fudge how Washington could help.
“Well, the first thing I’d like to say is that Washington sends an awful lot of money to the state of Florida and to this city in particular because it’s a city with rights, so it gets its own resources. The infrastructure law has been passed and they have COVID relief money, they have rent money. There’s a lot of money right now in communities across this country, not just in Jacksonville. They must have the will to do whatever it takes to keep the city moving and growing. We get the resources here. We don’t control how it is spent,” she said.
Fudge said there are older, low-income homes like Hilltop all over the US and it will cost about $70 billion to put all those properties in order. She said President Joe Biden has asked for an additional $3 billion for run-down public housing in Florida.
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