HUD Secretary Ben Carson visits troubled Eureka Gardens to hear residents' concerns

Steven Dial and Ken Amaro report. 4/11/2017

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Tracy Grant moved into Eureka Gardens seven years ago and has complained about the unsafe and unsanitary conditions several times.

"The first time I complained they did nothing," said Grant, "the second time they told me, 'you can get kicked out if you are persistent.'"

She was persistent and on Tuesday, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department Secretary Dr. Ben Carson and his wife walked through Grant's apartment to see the issues firsthand.

"I'm excited, I can't believe what is happening," she said.

A sitting HUD secretary visiting the troubled apartment complex is unheard. How did it get this far?

In September 2015, Grant became president of the newly formed tenant association and wrote HUD about the unsafe and unsanitary conditions. The letter caught the attention of Mayor Lenny Curry, Jacksonville City Council members and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Rubio called the property owner, Global Ministries Foundation, slumlords.

"A lot of credit goes to the local media," said Rubio.

Two years later, It brought Dr. Carson to Eureka to listen to Grant and the tenants' complaints.

"My expectation was that five years maybe somebody will take a look," said Grant.

Ohio-based Millennia Companies plans to buy Eureka Gardens from Global Ministries Foundation. Its management team is now running the complex.

"We plan to acquire the property at the end of the year," said Jeff Crossman, "then we will being the rehabilitation."

Millennia plans to renovate each unit at about $47,000 per unit.

What started as a simple letter two years ago has now become a reason for hope for Eureka Gardens residents.

"It takes that one powerful voice to literally say no way," said Grant, "I have never lived in anything like this so, I don't expect anyone to live like this." 

Carson gave the residents a vision of the HUD he wants. He said that the policy going forward that HUD is not about maintenance, it is about potential. He said it will be about preparing people for home ownership.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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