Lenny Curry discusses potential sale of Eureka Garden, other HUD complexes - Florida Politics

Lenny Curry discusses potential sale of Eureka Garden, other HUD complexes

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was not necessarily identified with addressing issues with HUD properties in his campaign for mayor last year.

However, the man called a “governance mayor” by his head spokesperson, got into office and quickly found conditions at HUD properties — specifically, those involving Global Ministries Foundation — among the issues most in need of addressing.

GMF entered the Jacksonville market under the previous mayoral administration, under circumstances that seemed questionable at the time to members of the Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority.

Mayor Alvin Brown “bypassed the normal approval process through the city council and went directly to the mayor for approval” for financing, said Tripp Gulliford of the JHFA.

GMF ended up buying properties that included Washington Heights and Eureka Garden, and did not devote sufficient resources to renovate the mid-20th century multi-unit developments.

In fact, $3,000 a unit was all GMF — a putative nonprofit run by a minister and his family that shifted over nine million dollars from its nonprofit housing arm to its religious affiliate — had allocated for remediation of problems that had accumulated over decades.

HUD admitted its culpability in selling the properties to GMF. And part of the reason why was the concerted effort of city officials, such as Curry and Councilman Garrett Dennis, as well Sen. Marco Rubio. In the wake of his failed run for president, Rubio seemed to find a renewed purpose in calling attention to the federally subsidized squalor at GMF complexes in Jacksonville and elsewhere.

Rubio brought the problems found in these complexes to the floor of the United States Senate, pointing out the multi-state nature of the decay that GMF facilitated. From complexes in Memphis, where HUD pulled funding and destabilized the municipal housing bond market, to rodents and sewage in an Atlanta complex, to the neglect in Jacksonville, Sen. Rubio stayed on the task.

When Florida Politics covered Rubio at Eureka Garden, he was combative, saying Global Ministries Foundation was “an old-fashioned slumlord” whose nonprofit status, Rubio said, was a dodge to “avoid property tax.” He also said the group’s feeble simulations of repair work were “all a show.”

Rubio, during that visit, pointed out a “bidding war” for GMF properties. Months later, it appears their sale is imminent.

The company potentially buying Global Ministries Foundation properties is Millennia Housing Management of Cleveland, Ohio, which has specialized in the low-income housing market for over two decades.

Its “footprint” spans across 20,000 units and 22 states, and “continues to grow.”

GMF confirmed that sale to the Florida Times-Union.

“GMF has reached an agreement in principle for Millennia’s acquisition of certain of GMF’s Section 8 properties. The sales will be subject to typical due diligence and other inspection contingencies, as well as subject to HUD approval,” said Audrey Young, spokeswoman for GMF-Preservation of Affordability.

Meanwhile, Curry addressed the media Tuesday afternoon, directly after a “good conversation” with Millennia CEO Frank Sinito.

Curry described the potential sale as a “very good development,” and a culmination of a goal.

“Once we discovered how bad Eureka Garden was,” Curry said, “we believed there needed to be new ownership.”

Curry was impressed particularly by Sinito saying his standard for rental properties was “would I live in properties I own.”

Curry lauded the company’s long history in the business, as well as its vertical integration. saying that it wasn’t quite a done deal … yet.

“The business side has to make sense,” Curry said, adding that “these things aren’t usually announced this early in the process.”

Sinito, said Curry, has visited the properties, and Millennia “will only follow through if they can invest what is needed.”

Curry would not confirm whether or not Millennia’s interest was in all GMF properties, saying that it was a “significant transaction” but that he didn’t want to “do anything that would jeopardize the transaction.”

For Curry, there was a note of personal accomplishment in the developments.

“Hamlet needs to go,” Curry said. “I said that almost a year ago.”

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