Rodent, maintenance issues persist in Jordan Park

- Rats, snakes, broken doors and appliances: that's everyday life for some of the residents of St. Pete's Jordan Park neighborhood. Residents say it's been this way for years, but relief may be on the way.

Six weeks ago, neighbors from the subsidized housing community took their concerns to city council, finally prompting some action.

WinnCompanies, which manages the property, says it's begun mowing lawns and going door-to-door to address rodent and maintenance issues. But many neighbors tell FOX 13, the problems persist.

"Really I don't see nothing they did but cut the grass," said Sylvia Norris, who moved into Jordan Park shortly after the historic neighborhood was rebuilt in 2002.

Norris says maintenance workers made repairs to her oven, but have yet to address problems with her mal-functioning air conditioning system, refrigerator and hot water heater. In a tour of her 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom unit, Norris pointed to a brownish discolored patch on her living room wall and closet door where her hot water heater vents back into her home, discoloring the walls.  

"See the black over there? I was told that was carbon monoxide," said Norris.

Then there's the issue of rodents.

In an email, WinnCompanies spokesman Ed Cafasso said exterminators had treated all homes reporting rat and mouse problems. Norris and others, however, say the problems persist.   

"I still hear them up in the attic," said Norris. "You can hear them like they're playing soccer."

"I [told the inspector] I have a rat problem and I showed him the pictures [of rat droppings in my attic], but no one ever came back to put a trap up there," said Jordan Park resident Carolyn Pierce.

In a City of St. Petersburg Housing Services committee meeting Thursday morning, several city council members expressed outrage over the conditions in Jordan Park and lack of action to correct on-going problems.

"The living arrangement is so complex, with two different owners, a management company and the housing authority having twice-removed authority, it makes fixing things that a normal landlord may fix in a matter of days, it may take months because of this complex process," said St. pete City Councilman Karl Nurse.

In 2000, the pre-WWII era housing project was demolished and rebuilt by Jordan Park Development Partners, a partnership between the Richman Group of Florida and Landex of Jacksonville. The ownership group was given a 15-year tax break as well as millions in government incentives, including a $3.1 million loan from the City of St. Pete. Jordan park Development Partners also receives $184 per month in HUD money for each occupied unit.

St. Pete's councilmembers now question whether the subsidized housing neighborhood's owners have acted in good faith.

"Whether there was a conspiracy or not, it certainly has the effect where the management does less maintenance than they would be required to do frankly in any housing in St. Pete," said Nurse.

The city of Saint Pete plans to buy the neighborhood by the end of the year. Jordan Park Development Partners is asking for a $3 million dollar loan forgiveness. Coucil members say they won't grant it until the owner performs the maintenance work they should have been doing over the last 15 years.

"The city's not going to forgive the loan until the owners have this property in good condition," said Nurse.

With tax incentives set to expire in six months, city leaders are hopeful the owners will feel the pressure to fix things up quickly.

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