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Affordable housing residents report unsafe living conditions; Miami commissioner blames it on ‘greedy’ developer

ALLAPATTAH, Fla. – Civic Towers residents in Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood said their videos and photos show scattered garbage, mold, structural damage, and other maintenance problems — despite publicly financed investments to prevent homelessness.

Alex Diaz De La Portilla, the Miami Commissioner for District 1, said he has been in communication with the developers and he has requested that the city take action. He described the property owners as “irresponsible” and “greedy.”

The affordable housing community’s 196 units are at 1855 NW 15th Ave., and the 151 units for seniors are at 1400 NW 19th St. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development lists the property as a participant of the Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance program.

Residents said pressure from the city’s enforcement officers prompted maintenance to address the outside garbage issue this week, but there continue to be waste disposal issues inside. The experience has been traumatic for some long-time residents.

Months after Civic Towers LLLP, an affiliate of California-based Redwood Housing Partner, purchased the property Hurricane Irma struck in 2017. There was a power outage, a lack of water, and structural damage. Some residents slept in cars and on the streets. Residents said the water intrusion worsened the mold issues.

In December 2018, residents began to return and a grand-opening ceremony was held in April 2019. HUD reported it as a good story. Before the ceremony, an audit from the HUD Office of Inspector General of Civic Towers, LLLP, and Civic Towers Senior, LLLP, found there was a “potential duplication of benefits” with housing assistance payments between HUD and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The inspector general found “the owners generally corrected its [housing assistance payment] to address duplicated benefits ... the owners lacked adequate policies and procedures to fully track displaced tenants and ensure accurate billing to HUD and failed to provide adequate oversight of its contractors ... Failing to address these conditions could put future HUD funds at risk.”

There were $43 million in tax credits to renovate it, yet there are liens from workers who are claiming they haven’t been paid. They are also receiving public rent subsidies. The residents who need solutions said no one is getting back to them.

Alex Diaz De La Portilla, the Miami Commissioner for District 1, responds to situation at Civic Towers. (Copyright 2020 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.)

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About the Authors:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.