JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – I-TEAM’s investigation into a mouse infestation in the Hilltop Village apartments in northwest Jacksonville continues to provide results for tenants.
News4Jax learned that the Department of Housing and Urban Development will be inspecting the property next week after determining that it should have been inspected in 2017 but it wasn’t. HUD hasn’t been in the apartments for almost six years.
Congressman Al Lawson’s team met with Hilltop Village residents Saturday and walked the property so they could see the mouse problem in person. They told residents they wanted to make sure they had safe shelter.
One resident said the meeting is about moving residents to alternative homes while the homes are being fumigated.
Mayor Lenny Curry’s office sent I-TEAM a statement in response to Lawson’s request that the city relocate residents: c
“Unfortunately, as a city, we don’t have the resources to move this number of people to another place. Since this is a state and federally funded residential complex in the Rep. Lawson district, we are confident that he will be able to find temporary state and federal assistance while we carry out our assigned responsibilities – compliance of the Code. “
Resident Sedricia Tinsley, who was among those who brought I-TEAM to the attention of the issues, said knowing the HUD inspectors are coming is a huge relief. Not yet.
“I don’t feel any different,” said Tinsley. “I won’t feel better until action is taken.”
A tenant sent us a video of three mice scurrying around in their kitchen trash can. (WJXT)
A letter sent to the HUD secretary by Senator Marco Rubio on Tuesday indicated that the department had not inspected the property since 2015, despite Hilltop Village receiving federal funding through HUD.
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Under such arrangements, HUD must periodically inspect the property to obtain a REAC rating, and contracts are generally not renewed unless the property is awarded at least 60 on a 100 point scale.
According to the HUD Health and Safety Assessment System, a mouse infestation is considered a non-life-threatening health injury that would adversely affect the complex’s REAC score.
News4Jax learned that Hilltop Village has actually received $ 4,207,273 from the federal government over the past two years – an average of over $ 175,300 per month – as part of its contract to provide affordable housing for families with low income Income. In addition, the property is eligible for $ 6 million in tax credits.
According to our I-TEAM research, a mouse infestation was allowed to spread to at least 13 of the 14 homes in the same two years that Hilltop raised over $ 4 million in federal funding.
A camera is recording a nighttime video of mice in an apartment in Hilltop Village (WJXT)
News4Jax spoke to at least a dozen families who showed us videos and pictures of mice scurrying in their clothes and around their kitchen, rodent droppings on their floors and in their cupboards, packaged food from their countertops – and dead mice caught on glue traps were – the solution they say was provided by management when they complained about the rodents.
But the traps no longer prevented mice from entering their homes, families said.
Mousetrap catches five mice at the same time in an apartment. (Photo provided)
After our first story aired, Rubio sent a team of his inspectors to speak to the families who had asked I-TEAM for help. The result was his letter to HUD, noting the lack of inspections – a violation of HUD’s own policies – and calling for immediate action, including property inspections, removal of the rodent problem, and enforcement of any penalties that may apply to owners could or management.
READ: Complete letter from Rubio to the HUD secretary
The city also sent 14 code enforcement officers to the property this week to inspect all 200 homes. On the first day, they found 42 violations in half of the apartments.
Councilor Ju’Coby Pittman also called the I-TEAM and inspected the property herself. She is now working with Congressman Al Lawson to hold the property manager responsible for providing a safe environment for the families who live there.
The I-TEAM is still working on how this could go on for so long. Check out our next report on Monday evening from 5 p.m.
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