ST. PETERSBURG — The St. Petersburg Housing Authority defended its handling of the Jordan Park housing complex Thursday and asked the city to forgive a $3.1 million loan as it prepares to buy back and upgrade the troubled property.
CEO Tony Love told the City Council's housing services committee that his agency has limited oversight over the 237-unit complex, where residents' complaints about rats, mold, mildew, aging appliances and unkempt landscaping recently became public.
City Council member Karl Nurse said the meeting to which Love had been summoned was productive.
"One of the values of shining a spotlight on this is that it creates a higher amount of pressure on the Housing Authority and indirectly on the management to fix the problems," said Nurse, who chairs the committee.
"The Housing Authority now understands that to get that loan forgiven, they'll have to make sure that the short-term issues are fixed and that they have a plan to fix long-term issues."
Love told council members that his agency is monitoring the maintenance company, WinnResidential, based in Boston, to resolve residents' complaints. The company has laid out an "aggressive action plan" to address the situation, he said.
The council committee later passed a resolution requesting that the city ask Jordan Park's management to allow code enforcement workers to inspect the apartments. Individual residents would be able to opt out.
Thursday's meeting was attended by about a dozen Jordan Park residents wearing black T-shirts that proclaimed, "Jordan Park Matters."
Terri Lipsey Scott, director of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum next door to the historic complex, spoke on behalf of her neighbors.
"The residents of Jordan Park have suffered in silence far too long. … What we're discussing here today is not new," she said, adding that one resident has been without air conditioning for more than a year.
Jordan Park, established more than 70 years ago, has been home to some of the city's most successful African-Americans. Actor Angela Bassett grew up in Jordan Park, a community named for black pioneer businessman Elder Jordan Sr.
Deteriorating apartments were demolished in 2000 and rebuilt with $27 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, low-income housing tax credits, a $500,000 federal home loan and a $3.1 million loan from the city of St. Petersburg.
At the time, the Housing Authority signed an agreement with the developer, Jordan Park Development Partners — a partnership of the Richman Group of Florida and Landex of Jacksonville — that allowed the agency to retain ownership of the land.
Jordan Park Development Partners owns the buildings, pays nothing to lease the land and is responsible for making sure the property is maintained. It also gets $184 a month in HUD funds for each occupied unit.
This year, the tax credits — applied toward the federal tax bills of Jordan Park's investors — are reaching their 15-year expiration date. That, said Melinda Perry, the Housing Authority's chief operating officer, is "usually when developers get out."
The Housing Authority is in negotiations to buy Jordan Park back.
"The ideal situation is that we have ownership by Jan. 2," Love said.
Contact Waveney Ann Moore at @firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.