CEO of Housing Authority’s response to Jordan Park conditions

In recent days, there has been a great deal of confusion over who owns Jordan Park Apartments and what is being done to help the low-income residents who live there. As Chief Executive Officer of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority (SPHA), I would like an opportunity to address community concerns and to provide the facts.

SPHA’s mission is to provide a variety of safe, sanitary, accessible, decent, and affordable housing to eligible citizens of the city of St. Petersburg, and we take this mission very seriously.

In 2001, SPHA was the first housing authority in the state of Florida to receive low income housing tax credits and one of the first in the nation to receive a HOPE VI redevelopment grant. This $27 million grant agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), private developers, investors, and other partners made possible the renovation of Jordan Park Apartments, the city’s oldest public housing property, into the 24 acre development with 237 units in 104 buildings that exists today.

Under the HOPE VI grant agreement, a plan was put in place to renovate the original barracks-style units, which were built in 1941 and were in a state of disrepair, into larger family-style apartments. However, in order to secure the tax credits necessary to finance the much-needed reconstruction, the ownership at the development had to change from SPHA to a private developer. Construction was completed in 2002.

Unlike most subsidized housing developments, the units at Jordan Park Apartments operate as both 100 percent public housing and 100 percent tax credits. Jordan Park Development Partners, a private developer comprised of the Richmond Group of Florida, Inc. and Landex of Jacksonville, Inc., owns and operates the buildings. As the owner, Jordan Park Development Partners is responsible for all property management and maintenance, for compliance with HUD regulations for public housing, and for compliance with tax credit codes for the tax credits. The owner also contracts with a private management company, WinnResidential, as the on-site property manager.

SPHA owns the land the buildings sit on, which is leased back to Jordan Park Development Partners. SPHA is responsible for providing the federal subsidy for public housing units to the developer, as a pass through from HUD. SPHA also oversees public housing compliance at the property, making monthly unit inspections and auditing resident files. But, under the regulatory and operating agreement signed in 2001, SPHA has little recourse to force change.

The ownership structure of the development is complex, and it has led to some issues in long-term operations and maintenance. It has been 15 years since Jordan Park Apartments was renovated, and the property is in need of refurbishment once more. Recently, Jordan Park residents in three of the 104 buildings brought issues with their living conditions to SPHA’s attention. It is very important to us that all residents have a safe and sanitary place to live, with no exception. We are working closely with the property management team at WinnResidential to ensure that these issues are immediately resolved and that a proactive plan is put in place to prevent them from occurring again. We’ve made great progress thus far; the grass is cut, repairs are being made, and pest control inspections are taking place every other day.

But, the best way to ensure that Jordan Park is managed and maintained to our high standards is for SPHA to buy back the development when the tax credit compliance period ends later this year. We currently are in negotiations with the owner to purchase the property, and we are also pursuing the necessary financing measures to complete renovations and modernization. Under our ownership, Jordan Park Apartments will remain affordable housing for low-income residents, but the units will be much improved. SPHA’s commitment is to make the community a better place to live for everyone.

Tony L. Love, CEO of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority

Editorial from Love sparks heated conversation

When the editorial of St. Petersburg Housing Authority’s Tony Love first came out, it sparked a heated exchange of emails throughout the community.

The CEO of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority Tony Love sent an editorial to different media outlets addressing concerns of the deplorable conditions in Jordan Park Apartments. In an email thread discussing Love’s editorial, community leaders had a mix bag of responses.

Chair of the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum Terri Lipsey Scott wrote that she remains unmoved by Love’s editorial.

At a 2020 Plan Task Force meeting in February, she said she expressed concerns of the living conditions in the Jordan Park Apartments and Love stated that he would be working to bring about resolve to the issues plaguing the residents. Five months later, the few changes that have been made came from the residents bringing their issues to the attention of the local media and elected officials.

“The lawn has been cut, pest control vehicles have begun to show up, a senior who has been without an air conditioner for a year now has one, mold is now being painted over, termite damage (with no treatment to date) has been plastered over and painted, a few aging appliances which generate exorbitant electric bills are now being replaced, a tenant in a wheel chair is required to pay $5 to change each blown light bulb, the tenant who has killed more than 60 rats has added another to the count.  The list goes on and on,” Lipsey Scott wrote.

She also revealed that an inspection company with permission from a tenant came in and attempted to make an assessment but was stopped because it was not authorized by the apartment management.

“The inspection was followed by a threat from management that all vendors must be contracted through management, or else residents would be in violation of their lease,” she wrote.

The incomplete report provided the following findings:

• Evidence of rodent activity in the crawl space

• Evidence of Subterranean Termite Infestation

• Termite damage in the attic rafters

• Evidence of rodent activity in the attic

• Leaks in the drain/waste piping system. The wastewater is draining in the space under the building

• An open cast iron drain pipe needs to be sealed to prevent rodents and sewer gas from entering the structure

• The closet does not have adequate combustion air-space for the gas water heater.  Further evaluation is needed by a professional in the gas appliance field to determine if there is enough combustion air space to support the gas water heater

Lipsey Scott pointed out that in Love’s editorial he wrote that the “SPHA oversees public housing compliance at the property, making monthly unit inspections and auditing resident files.” She posed a litany of questions, such as how such deplorable conditions could have passed inspection, who inspected the units, what were the monthly findings and why were federal subsidies provided to the developer in light of inspection violations?

Pinellas County Commissioner Kenneth Welch wrote that he would contact the SPHA and the management company on behalf of the County Commission stating their support for the residents and for immediate and long-term actions to resolve the problems.

“My main question and concern is why this issue wasn’t made known earlier—not to point fingers, but to make sure that community issues like this are properly communicated in a timely manner, so that they can be acted upon,” wrote Welch.

Rev. Louis Murphy Sr. wrote that the character assassinations need to stop and what is needed is for everyone to work together to “strategically plan and execute how to address all the issues that impact our community.”

“This is our time to make life better for our people. Please stop with the negatives and let’s focus on the positives, the things we can agree on to bring about the necessary change for our people,” he wrote.

Lipsey Scott pointed out that in Love’s editorial he wrote that the mission of SPHA “is to provide a variety of safe, sanitary, accessible, decent, and affordable housing to eligible citizens of the city of St. Petersburg, and we take this mission very seriously.”

She asked, “How can any of us believe that this mission was taken seriously when documentation affirms that it was not?”

Lipsey Scott admonished Love and his staff for driving through the Jordan Park community “making observations of the community’s despair” and not taking advantage of the opportunity to meet with the residents.

Imam Askia Muhammad Aquil, who has managed public housing and designed and administered programs and services for residents, wrote that the real culprit is the U. S. Congress that has “absolutely refused to adequately fund affordable housing opportunities including housing authorities for decades.”

He stressed that funding is needed to properly maintain a property such as Jordan Park Apartments, and the funding comes from Congress.

“Where does housing authority funding come from? Who appropriates funding for HUD? Congress…The same Congress that has sought to thwart all of President Obama’s initiative, shut down the government once and wanted to do so again. Politics at its worse,” wrote Muhammad Aquil.

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