Global Ministries Foundation Archives - Florida Politics

Full Jax Council to vote on $90M for Section 8 complexes

$90,000,000 is one step closer for the acqusition, rebranding and rehab of four of Jacksonville’s most troubled low-income housing developments, which contain 768 units total.

Jacksonville City Council resolution 2017-671, which would authorize $90,000,000 in Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority bonds for  Millennia Housing Management (MHM) to “finance, acquire, rehab & equip four Multifamily Rental Housing Developments,” was approved by Council committees of reference Monday and Tuesday.

That approval clears the way for full Council approval next week.

Along with the new money was supposed to come new names; 400-unit Eureka Gardens, 94-unit Moncrief Village, 74-unit Southside Apartments & 200-unit Washington Heights would be known as Valencia Way, Estuary Estates, Oyster Pointe and Charlesfort Commons, respectively.

However, Finance Committee members balked at the renaming, saying there wasn’t any local connection to the names. This led to a floor amendment to strike the new names from the bill.

A representative of the Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority (HUD) said that MHM’s national project-based Section 8 portfolio factored into the JHFA’s confidence in them.

HUD had a “vested interest” in ensuring MHM could handle taking on the Global Ministries Foundation national portfolio, the JHFA rep added.

“It is a significant step forward,” marveled Councilman Greg Anderson on Monday. “They’re going to rename … rebrand, significantly invest in these.”

“I looked at the cost per unit,” added Councilman Jim Love Monday, “and it came out to almost $140,000 per unit.”

Such capital would drive capital rehabilitation, a shortfall of current ownership that led to national scrutiny on that portfolio, said a JHFA representative.

There would be a credit underwriting report before the transaction was OK’d by JHFA; the idea is for work to begin on the properties early next year.

MHM has pledged significant resources to facility rehabilitation in the past, as a 2014 tax incentive application makes clear.

In acquiring a 160-unit Section 8 complex in upstate New York, the company pledged to spend $8.8 million on the “soft costs” of renovation. Pro-rated, this comes out to $55,000 a unit, as the company vowed to address a “multitude of capital needs” for the apartments, including kitchen and bathroom renovation and installing new windows.

Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Al Lawson talk HUD reform in Jacksonville

Jacksonville’s Eureka Garden apartment complex has been in the news for a number of years.

First came the crime reports. Then came reports about mold, broken windows, gas leaks, and other infrastructural nightmares for the 400-unit HUD complex on Jacksonville’s Westside.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio called for reforms to the HUD process, and for new ownership.

And right now, the ownership transition is underway.

Millennia Housing Management took over the management of the complex from the still-current owners, Global Ministries Foundation.

MHM is ready to put capital in; however, until formal transfer of the GMF portfolio concludes, there’s only so much they will invest.

And therein lies an issue for the long-suffering Eureka Garden residents.

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson has made Eureka a focus, discussing issues at the complex during his 2016 campaign, and visiting the apartments during his last Congressional recess.

Tuesday saw Lawson double down — accompanied by another newcomer to Washington, D.C., in HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Sen. Rubio.

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At a church near Eureka Garden, the politicians sat down with Jacksonville City Councilmen and other local stakeholders, as Secretary Carson discussed his plans for reform.

Before doing that, he lauded local officials for demonstrating the “leadership” that has brought the issues at Eureka into the “spotlight.”

Carson described a holistic vision of reform, one which went beyond subsidized housing.

The Secretary advocated for community clinics, “so the Emergency Room doesn’t become the primary care vehicle.”

He also advocated the importance of education, making the case for vouchers, and for more changes to the Section 8 model.

Among those proposals: a “housing savings account,” which would allow residents to save a bit of money every month, either to defray the cost of repairs (“doors scratched up” and other such issues).

“If those things aren’t happening,” Carson said, money “starts to accumulate,” and after a number of years, there may be sufficient money for a down payment on a house.

Carson, after musing on problems with America’s multi-party system, and people outside the country watching to see if they should “destroy [Americans] or wait for them to destroy themselves, noted that there’s “a lot of hysteria about people going to be thrown out onto the street.”

Carson says that won’t happen; however, America’s ponderous national debt requires a focus on using money efficiently and effectively, with an eye toward getting the greatest “bang for the buck.”

Part of that strategy: public-private partnerships, with “federal money leveraged with the private sector.”

President Donald Trump wants a $1T investment in infrastructure; much of that, Carson said, will go to housing.

Carson also wants “vision centers” near HUD complexes, which will be “places where young people can learn about careers.”

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Rep. Lawson told us about how he made the visit happen, writing Secretary Carson in February.

“I told him he really needed to come to Eureka Garden,” Lawson said.

Lawson sees the changes at Eureka — which look to be complete in the next couple of years, pending the transfer of the property — as a model for the rest of the country, potentially.

While Rep. Lawson isn’t completely sold on concepts like housing savings accounts, saying they might have more utility for younger people rather than older residents, he appreciates Sec. Carson’s interest, and anticipates a strong working relationship while both are in Washington.

Al Lawson talks HUD reform at Jacksonville’s Eureka Garden

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson visited Eureka Garden in Jacksonville on Presidents’ Day, and expressed optimism for the building’s current ownership, while suggesting that more comprehensive reform of HUD is needed.

Speaking to tenants in the 400-unit Section 8 complex’s community center, Rep. Lawson addressed the need for federal help allowing tenants to “make a different quality of life,” by making “funding available.”

The congressman will have an important ally across the aisle and in the Senate in this regard.

Lawson discussed a “sitdown” with an old friend: Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been an advocate of HUD reform for over a year, in reaction to the dilapidation at Eureka Garden and other properties once owned by Global Ministries Foundation.

Lawson asserted that Rubio, who said on many occasions that GMF had a “slumlord” approach to property ownership, committed to continue working on HUD reform.

“We want to make sure that they take care of residents,” Lawson said, and “make sure HUD has proper oversight” by “working jointly with HUD to make some changes.”

Among those changes: ensuring that federal dollars go into building maintenance, not into the pockets of ownership — something that was not the case in the past with GMF properties.

“It will take time,” Lawson added, “but we have made the commitment.”

Lawson also joins Rubio in believing that GMF should be held accountable for the conditions they allowed to happen at the Jacksonville apartment complex, though the mechanisms for that accountability are unclear.

Lawson also intends to engage the Donald Trump administration in his quest, vowing to get HUD Secretary Ben Carson to “come down and take a look.”

The Congressman’s approach to the residents of Eureka was jovial and joke-filled.

At one point, Lawson quipped that “every time I get a paycheck, I think about you.”

And at a couple of points, Lawson noted that apartments at Eureka were “better than [his] apartment in D.C.,” an endorsement of the ongoing rehab work that the new management company, Millennia Housing Management, is engaged in.

“I can give a good report,” Lawson said, noting that he will meet with senators to discuss HUD issues next week.

Though Millennia took over on Feb. 1, the company is already working through a priority list of repairs, focusing on major issues currently.

If all goes well with the Ohio company’s ownership bid, Millennia will hold the title on this and the rest of the GMF portfolio by the end of the year.

Though tenants groused at the slow pace of repairs, citing issues like missing screen doors, needed burglar bars on doors, and a lack of insulation in the walls, Lawson focused on positives, such as an improved playground and an eventual community garden.

“I feel like you all are going to take pride in the community,” Lawson said, advising those on hand to call police if they see “someone out on the corner selling drugs.”

Though Lawson’s appearance was appreciated by those on hand, he may have missed an opportunity for synergy from local politicians.

Lawson’s visit to Eureka Garden was originally expected to be on Tuesday, and was expected to involve Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Councilman Garrett Dennis – the local catalysts for reform in GMF properties.

Curry was spending Monday with his family.

Dennis noted that, while he couldn’t attend due to the “late notice of the visit,” he looked forward to getting together with Lawson at a future date and discussing “other issues plaguing our community and the City of Jacksonville.”

Lawson has a crowded schedule over the next few days.

He met with a group of preachers earlier on Monday.

On Tuesday, the first-term Tallahassee Democrat will discuss the Affordable Care Act with executives at Florida Blue, and will also discuss federal dredging dollars with the chair of JAXPORT.

Wednesday sees Lawson meeting with another phalanx of pastors.

 

Sale of Jacksonville HUD properties making progress, says mayor’s office

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and senior staffers had another meeting this week with the potential buyer for some of the city’s most beleaguered HUD properties, and it went well, says the mayor’s office.

In September, Curry confirmed the interest of Millennia Housing Management of Cleveland, Ohio, —which has specialized in the low-income housing market for over two decades — in acquiring properties owned by Global Ministries Foundation.

Those properties had, especially in the last year, gotten national scrutiny for being in disrepair, with issues ranging from property-wide gas leaks to mold infestations and structural damage that compromised safety.

Curry’s office says the Thursday meeting was productive, and it seems the deal is moving toward completion.

Millennia, we are told via answers provided by Chief of Staff Kerri Stewart, is “finalizing purchase and sale agreement now with hopes to be in due diligence period soon.”

The due diligence period allows the potential buyer to do a final review of the portfolio of properties it is acquiring.

One issue with GMF’s ownership of properties such as Eureka Garden, Washington Heights, and Cleveland Arms was the insufficient capital committed to rehab; roughly $3,000 a unit, for rental apartments approaching half a century old.

Will Millennia commit to invest meaningfully in facility rehab?

Curry’s team is confident: “No commitments made, however, their track record speaks to the kind of rehab they perform.”

Indeed, Millennia has pledged significant resources to facility rehabilitation in the past, as a 2014 tax incentive application makes clear.

In acquiring a 160-unit Section 8 complex in upstate New York, the company pledged to spend $8.8 million on the “soft costs” of renovation. Pro-rated, this comes out to $55,000 a unit, as the company vowed to address a “multitude of capital needs” for the apartments, including kitchen and bathroom renovation and installing new windows.

There are still hurdles to overcome: in addition to the due diligence period, the deal, said Stewart, requires “approval of transaction by HUD (and any other stakeholder entities).”

Millennia, already in 22 states, should have no problem there.

The bet that Millennia has made over the years: that guaranteed federal money will defray, over time, the cost of rehab.

It’s a bet that the city of Jacksonville welcomes, after years of frustration with Global Ministries, and years before that with previous ownership teams.

In subcommittee, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson spotlight Florida HUD horrors

Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson don’t agree on everything. But when it comes to the horrors of the HUD-funded properties in Florida that are owned currently by Global Ministries Foundation, they presented a united from Thursday in a Senate subcommittee meeting on “Oversight of the HUD Inspection Process.”

Both Rubio and Nelson have visited GMF properties in Jacksonville, Orlando, and Riviera Beach, and have documented the decay and decrepitude in these low-income housing blocks.

On Thursday, they again sounded the alarm bell.

But, observed subcommittee head Tim Scott, HUD “could not spare a single individual to be here this morning,” despite thousands of employees and a $32 billion budget.

“How is it that not a single employee of HUD could make the time to explain how this has happened,” Scott said after showing a video of the degraded conditions.

“I cannot believe the conditions that Global Ministries allows in its properties,” Scott continued.

Scott lauded Rubio and Nelson for kickstarting the Senate investigation into the “widespread neglect” into properties like Eureka Garden in Jacksonville, the most high-profile failure of HUD oversight in Florida due to media attention and recent focus from the senators.

Subcommittee member Bob Corker lauded the two Florida Senators for “shining a light” on GMF; Corker, a senator from Tennessee, saw a similar narrative of neglected GMF public housing properties play out in his state.

In testimony, Nelson spoke of the “outrage” he felt, urging a subpoena of HUD officials to bring them to heel in front of the Senate.

Nelson went on to discuss the unacceptable conditions he and Rubio saw in Orlando at the Windsor Cove complex, including severe water damage, mold, roach infestation, and waterlogged carpeting.

As was the case with Eureka Garden in Jacksonville, Nelson noted that HUD had passed this tenement in its initial investigation, then “after we raised cain,” the agency invalidated the previous score after outcry from tenants, who faced “intimidation” for blowing the whistle.

Mysteriously, a second inspection revealed horrors galore: “broken smoke detectors, exposed electrical wires, blocked fire exits, leaky water valves, window cracks, missing floor tiles, and water seeping in from roof damage—just to name a few.”

Nelson discussed a hopeful augury: the potential sale of GMF properties to Millennia Housing Management in Ohio, which he believes has the resources to remediate these properties.

Nelson, who introduced the Housing Accountability Act with his Sunshine State colleague, noted that bill would tighten up inspection criteria and protect residents.

Rubio noted that “we are all deeply disturbed” by the “broken” process, and noted his displeasure with HUD’s no-show of the hearing.

“I became involved in this situation about a year ago when the tenants took their case to the public,” Rubio said, which has led to outcry against “slumlords” like GMF, which pay themselves handsomely and take the money out of maintenance.

Rubio spoke with passion about apartments at Eureka Garden unpainted in 13 years, with boarded-up windows and doors.

Rubio addressed, also, the “bureaucratic indifference” that led this to happen.

Furthermore, what he saw in Riviera Beach was even worse, with discarded “nickel bags and dime bags of drugs” strewn on the ground.

“Nothing displays how broken this system is better than HUD’s own inspection process,” a rigged game designed to “keep the money flowing to the landlord.”

Rubio, as Nelson did, discussed the flawed inspection process; however, Rubio depicted it as one of many “failed safety-net processes.”

GMF, Rubio noted, owns properties in many states: “over 5,000 taxpayer-funded properties throughout the nation.”

“I look forward to hearing from witnesses about GMF’s fraud and HUD’s neglect,” Rubio said.

Witnesses buttressed the senators’ claims.

Dr. Edgar Olsena public policy expert, noted that the subsidies exceed market rates, and contended the system actually offers incentive to a lack of repair.

“You should not assume the problem is limited to one owner,” Olson continued.

Deterioration, Olsen continued, is augmented by the inflation-adjusted subsidy not being tied to the level of maintenance, which allows them to “maximize profits by skimping on maintenance.”

Olsen argued against offering additional subsidies to these owners for renovation, instead contending that housing vouchers are a more cost-effective solution, tied to market rates.

Tracy Grant of the Eureka Garden Tenants Association spoke of moving into the complex in 2010, where she encountered “stumbling blocks,” including questioning of the validity of her birth certificate.

The night she moved in, she heard a gunshot outside her window. Her kids and she slept on the hard cement floor that night.

Meanwhile, the initial walkthrough revealed dirty floors and mold in the bathroom.

Once in the apartment, issues like leaky pipes and other signs of structural neglect, such as gas leaks that permeated the inside and the outside of the complex, plagued Ms. Grant.

Her fellow tenants, Grant said, want change; some of them have lived there 50 years, Grant said.

And some languish there in poor health, and some died there, perhaps because of complications from mold, gas leaks, and even lead poisoning from the water.

Grant’s own seven-year-old daughter has asthma, and so does Grant; she noted the correlation between conditions and health outcomes.

“We don’t want to live like this,” Grant said.

Josh Lewis of the Riviera Beach Police Department spoke next, about the conditions at the Stonybrook Complex, which was built in 1972.

Despite the property repeatedly being spotlighted by law enforcement, and repeated assurances by ownership that compliance would occur, no meaningful action was taken.

Eventually, in May 2016, the property was officially declared a criminal nuisance by the police department.

And, said Lewis, GMF still hadn’t taken meaningful corrective action.

After witness testimony, Sen. Rubio noted the goal of the hearing was to “make the current system work better,” then posed questions to witnesses.

One such question: to Grant, regarding the intimidation of tenants and “preferential treatment” to certain tenants to serve as mouthpieces to the press.

Among those amenities: refrigerators made this century.

Grant confirmed the senator’s read, saying that tenants who spoke up were threatened with a “ten-day eviction notice” rooted in spurious cause.

Grant also described rust peeling off of bathroom pipes, in response to questions from Sen. Scott.

Josh Lewis, meanwhile, called for “accountability.”

But the issue, pointed out by housing consultant Vincent O’Donnell, is tough to solve given the guaranteed income streams provided by housing vouchers.

The incentive is on landlords to keep tenants in units as long as possible.

Chairman Scott closed the hearing, saying there are “many issues in the housing footprint that we need to engage in,” as housing and upward mobility and quality of life are inextricably yoked.

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.”

During surprise visit, Marco Rubio decries Global Ministries Foundation properties

Sen. Marco Rubio ended the week with a trip to Riviera Beach, where he again called attention to the tenement conditions in a Global Ministries Foundation property.

Rubio, who has made multiple visits to Jacksonville over the last year calling attention to longstanding issues at Eureka Garden, made a similar visit to Stonybrook Apartments, a Section 8 complex acquired by GMF earlier this decade, yet not significantly improved.

From crack pipes in the courtyard to malfunctioning air conditioning units, the scene was all too familiar to Sen. Rubio.

“We have been to Global Ministries buildings at Eureka Garden in Jacksonville — same conditions. Sen. [Bill] Nelson and I did a surprise visit to a facility in Orlando — same conditions. This building here is actually, believe or not, a little bit worse than the ones we’ve seen in other places. It hasn’t received as much attention other than from local officials. So I have been on this issue now for a number of months,” Rubio said Friday, “and one of the things I asked for is an investigation of Global Ministries, the slumlords who run these facilities.”

The visit in Riviera Beach was a surprise, said Rubio, “because if they knew we were coming here today, they would do what they did in Jacksonville. If they knew we were coming they’d put up a bunch of banners, they’d have a hundred people come out pretending to be a work crew, they’ll do cosmetic fixes.”

Rubio believes there is cause for a criminal investigation of GMF: “we need to find out where that [HUD] money went because they didn’t use it to fix up this building.”

Rubio has been criticized for developing an election-year interest in remedying GMF blight; however, that’s not consistent with his actions on this front.

He wouldn’t talk politics when asked to by the Palm Beach Post Friday.

And that deliberate de-politicization of GMF visits is consistent with his actions in Jacksonville, where he showed no interest in talking about the presidential race, and in fact was incensed at NBC for doing a segment on his feelings on Donald Trump instead of the federally subsidized squalor.

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson file Housing Accountability Act of 2016

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.”

 

 

Alan Grayson visits Eureka Garden, advocates ‘local ownership’

Rep. Alan Grayson, a Democrat running for Senate, visited Eureka Garden during his Jacksonville swing Sunday.

Grayson was not impressed.

His visit began with a conversation with a Jacksonville pastor, Elder Lee Harris, who told Grayson of the “dangerous conditions” at the complex, with Grayson asking if such issues, combined with situations such as the police killing of Vernell Bing Jr., added up to “institutional racism.”

Harris’ take: it was evidence of a “great divide” in the city.

“I saw your Division Street,” Grayson said to Harris. “We have a Division Street in Orlando and it is exactly what you think it is.”

****

Grayson, who brands himself as the “Congressman with Guts,” was not as polemical on this occasion as he sometimes can be.

The media presence was small: FloridaPolitics.com, Folio Weekly and the Orlando public radio station were on hand, on this day of triple-digit heat and a merciless sun beating down.

Yet despite the heat and his perhaps ill-advised decision to wear a dark wool suit, Grayson had plenty to say.

When asked about Global Ministries Foundation, the nominal nonprofit whose neglect of this and other Jacksonville and Orlando properties led to Marco Rubio pushing for HUD reforms on the Senate floor, Grayson was surprisingly circumspect.

“Seeing what I see here,” Grayson said of GMF, “they’re not doing their job.”

Calling them a “slumlord” benefiting from massive government subsidies, the Democrat compared Eureka Garden unfavorably to the projects where he grew up in the Bronx.

“I lived in a project like this until I went to college,” Grayson said. “Growing up, you could call your superintendent or your state representative and get a broken window fixed.”

In contrast, the model that allows outfits like Global Ministries Foundation has no such recourse. A reform that Grayson would like to see: “local ownership,” which he believes might remedy money flowing into a company like GMF and then flowing out of the community, a situation he likened to people going to Wal-Mart and seeing the money go to China.

Grayson cited a “failure of trust … a failure on the part of government,” adding there is an “opportunity to do things better” and to “confer on people the life” that the model “intended.”

As well, Grayson said there was a “failure of privatization” in play, with “no way to hold anybody responsible.”

“If the owner dug in and said ‘we’re not quitting,’ legally, [the feds] could not do much,” Grayson said.

“There literally is a motive to screw people. We set it up that way,” Grayson added.

Grayson likened the conditions at Eureka Garden to the horrors of the private prison industry, which Grayson introduced an amendment to “try to kill.”

“The government has a monopoly on the legal use of force,” Grayson said, and the private prison industry effectively subcontracts that, creating a lack of accountability in which the “whole thing falls apart.”

Beyond that, Grayson notes, a “million people in this country” are incarcerated for marijuana possession.

The common thread between the prison state and hustles like Global Ministries Foundation?

A “fundamental squandering” of resources, said Grayson, one which interferes with “alleviating gross inequities.”

This misallocation of resources hasn’t been helped, Grayson added, by a slow recovery in the economy, which has been “limping along” for the last nine years, “sucked dry by people that rig the system for themselves,” the so-called “1 percent” that is “making huge amounts of money and not spending it.”

“We try to make that up with monetary policy,” Grayson said, “but that’s a hard thing to do.”

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Grayson met with the complex’s most outspoken activist, Mona Lisa Arnold, inside her apartment, which was well over 80 degrees due to the insufficient window air conditioning.

Arnold talked about a break-in after she spoke out about conditions.

“They broke into my house, they stole everything, they stole my education,” Arnold said.

Arnold has lived at Eureka Garden for over a decade, and she’s seen and heard it all.

“Gunshots every day, Rubio can’t tell me nothing,” Arnold said.

And 911 is a curse as much as a blessing.

“Call 911. They’ll come to your door,” Arnold said, and the community will treat you as a “whistleblower,” and “your head ends up on the floor.”

Arnold has seen “death and murder.” Her brother was killed, somewhere in Arlington, a few years back.

She also has spoken out, repeatedly, about the issues at Eureka Garden. She’s lived at the complex through multiple mayoral administrations. She’s heard the talk about the changes coming.

But she hasn’t seen it yet.

New owners for Eureka Garden, Washington Heights, Cleveland Arms?

A review of City of Jacksonville emails reveals new ownership might be on the way for Global Ministries Foundation properties.

Bart Lloyd, general counsel for Preservation of Affordable Housing, emailed senior staff in the mayor’s office to let them know they may be acquiring the GMF portfolio.

“We are a national nonprofit and own about 9,000 units. We have turned around some pretty difficult deals (including the GMN portfolio in Miami a couple years ago),” notes Lloyd.

If this group is able to turn around GMF properties, such as Eureka Garden, Cleveland Arms, and Washington Heights, they will be reversing a sordid recent history for those and other GMF units.

Sen. Marco Rubio turned federal attention to the issues at Eureka Garden earlier this year with a personal visit in the spring, which motivated him to push for reforms of HUD’s process on the Senate floor.

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