A major issue in Florida has been the horrific conditions at HUD complexes in Jacksonville and Orlando. Thursday, Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson did something about it: the Housing Accountability Act of 2016.
The two lawmakers filed the legislation “to help thousands of low-income families living in federally subsidized housing such as Eureka Gardens in Jacksonville and Windsor Cove Apartments in Orlando,” according to a release from Nelson’s office.
Those apartments, owned by the nationally scandalized Global Ministries Foundation, have led to inquiries in the Senate, with Rubio particularly outspoken in demanding reform of HUD processes.
The proposed legislation would, among other things, require HUD to survey tenants living in subsidized housing twice a year about property conditions and management performance, and would also create new penalties for property owners who repeatedly fail the tenant surveys.
Government funding is contingent on those conditions being satisfied. Failure to comply would result in a penalty of not less than 1 percent of the annual government stipend, with money collected going to help the tenants suffering in unremediated squalor.
The bill also requires, within a year of passage, HUD to complete a report regarding the “adequacy of capital reserves” for each structure receiving Section 8 funds.
For Rubio, helping those suffering in substandard HUD housing has become a crusade that no one would have anticipated even a year ago.
“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,” Rubio added, “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.”
Nelson added the 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.”