WASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) filed legislation today to help thousands of low-income families living in federally-subsidized housing such as Eureka Gardens in Jacksonville, Windsor Cove Apartments in Orlando, and Stonybrook Apartments in Riviera Beach.
The Florida lawmakers’ legislation would, among other things, require the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 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.
Surveying tenants directly would give residents an opportunity to report any issues directly to HUD without fear of reprisal from owners and managers who have been known to threaten to evict tenants who try to complain.
The legislation comes in the wake of recent local and federal investigations that found deplorable living conditions at several subsidized-housing properties in Florida including Windsor Cove, which Nelson and Rubio visited last month to get a firsthand look at the conditions there.
“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.”
“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 Senator 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. 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.”
The recently completed investigations of several housing projects in Florida found instances of mold, structural deficiencies, leaky water and gas pipes, water damage, roach infestations, window damage, and lead poisoning.
The legislation Nelson and Rubio filed today seeks to address some of the shortcomings investigators found during their inspections of Eureka Gardens and Windsor Cove – including the housing agency’s overdependence on often unreliable third-party property inspections and a lack of direct communication with their tenants – that contributed to the poor conditions at both properties going unrepaired for so long.
The bill now heads to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee for consideration. Text of the legislation is available here.
Earlier this year, the Senate passed a bill (HR 2577) which included the following three Rubio amendments to improve HUD’s oversight of housing projects:
Rubio Amendment #3918: To shorten required response time for contract violations.
- Shortens the time given to a property owner to respond to a contract violation from 30 days to 15 days.
- Shortens the time the HUD Secretary has to prepare a Compliance, Disposition and Enforcement Plan from 60 days to 30 days.
Rubio Amendment #3926: To determine the state of Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) assessments.
- Requires HUD and the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct and publish reports determining the state of REAC assessments.
- The HUD report will include a nationwide review of REAC scores.
- The GAO report will include areas in which the REAC inspection process should be reformed and improved.
Rubio Amendment #4050: To make temporary relocation assistance available for tenants in situations like Eureka Garden.
- Makes Tenant Protection Vouchers (TPV) available for tenants living in dwelling units in which the owner has been declared in default of a project-based subsidy contract due to imminent health and safety risk to residents.
- The current system does not allow TPV’s to be available if the property is under review. Making relocation assistance available when there are clear risks to the residents’ health is a big step to making sure that if these situations arise, residents are not harmed.