Nikki Fried and Tampa councilwoman Lynn Hurtak speak out against living conditions at Silver Oak Apartments

Both Fried and Hurtak vowed to take action.

click to enlarge Nikki Fried outside Silver Oaks Apartments in Tampa, Florida on April 19, 2022. - PHOTO BY DAVE DECKER
Photo by Dave Decker
Nikki Fried outside Silver Oaks Apartments in Tampa, Florida on April 19, 2022.
Gubernatorial Candidate Nikki Fried and Tampa City Councilwoman Lynn Hurtak spoke out today at a press conference about unsafe living conditions at Silver Oaks Apartment complex.

The press conference was held directly in front of the East Tampa apartment complex, where Fried, Hurtak and several residents sounded off about Cambridge Management's poor upkeep of the property.

Fried—Florida's current commissioner of agriculture and consumer services—said that the conditions were not just breaching the law, but immoral as well.

"Here at Silver Oaks Apartments, management has flouted not just the federal rules, but the rules of common decency and respect," Fried said. "They are certainly being taken advantage of, these renters. And the residents of Silver Oaks Apartments are being treated unfairly."

Last week, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay broke a story about the affordable housing complex being riddled issues such as flooding from the plumbing, collapsing ceilings, rodents, and black mold.

After residents of the government-subsidized affordable housing complex told CL about the nightmarish living conditions, a private security team made it hard for media and relief volunteers to help or visit residents.  On April 15, residents received a letter detailing last-minute inspections and potential termination of leases.

When asked what could be immediately done about the situation to help the residents there, Fried said she will be looking into next steps.

"What I would recommend is that we actually engage my Consumer Affairs Division and see what we can be doing inside the Department of Agriculture and see if there's things that we can do now," Fried said.
click to enlarge Black mold inside a unit Silver Oaks Apartments in Tampa, Florida on April 19, 2022. - PHOTO BY DAVE DECKER
Photo by Dave Decker
Black mold inside a unit Silver Oaks Apartments in Tampa, Florida on April 19, 2022.
She said that if she wins the governorship, she will declare a housing state of emergency across Florida, and discussed other plans that fall under her "Lower Costs, Higher Standards" plan.

According to Fried, the plan seeks to target predatory landlords who gouge rental prices and end the state's preemption of local jurisdictions to take immediate steps to address the crisis.

In Tampa Bay, local politicians have said that their hands are tied due to the state's rules regarding rent control and rent stabilization, a stance that has been contested by local tenant's unions.

Fried also called on local politicians to do more about the issues at Silver Oaks, and the rental crisis in general.

"I don't know how any elected official in our state of Florida doesn't hear the cries from their constituents of what is happening on the ground and not want to step up and take action," Fried said. "I'm sorry, but this has gone on too long in our state, and it's time for concrete action and for everybody to get engaged in this fight."

After Tampa, Fried was headed to St. Pete's evicted Stanton Apartments, where a  resident died in a hospital after collapsing while hastily moving out during a last minute eviction.

Tampa City Councilwoman Lynn Hurtak was the only city or Hillsborough County elected official at the press conference.

"People are concerned about the safety of the housing that we have, and that has been an issue of mine before I even got into public office," Hurtak said. "So I'm excited that I can actually take that and work with it to see what we can do, because affordable housing is not synonymous with unsafe housing."

After the press conference, residents invited both Fried and Hurtak inside the complex to see first hand the conditions they are living in. Fried's campaign advisor said they didn't have any time, but Hurtak went inside, along with the local media. The security guards that deterred media last week were nowhere to be found during the press conference, and only appeared again after Hurtak and others left the property.
click to enlarge Vonnesha King (L) and Tampa City Councilwoman Lynn Hurtak at Silver Oaks Apartments in Tampa, Florida on April 19, 2022. - PHOTO BY DAVE DECKER
Photo by Dave Decker
Vonnesha King (L) and Tampa City Councilwoman Lynn Hurtak at Silver Oaks Apartments in Tampa, Florida on April 19, 2022.
Resident Vonnesha King led the tour of the damaged apartment units. She also spoke during the press conference about the conditions she and her neighbors are living in, saying "I'm tired," before down into tears. The emotions were still high as she and neighbor Shantia Little showed Hurtak what they were dealing with.

In many of the units, a strong scent of the mold attacked the sinuses immediately. Rat feces lined the counters and corners of one apartment that a woman was in the process of moving out of to live with family, because she couldn't take it anymore.
click to enlarge Silver Oaks Apartments in Tampa, Florida on April 19, 2022. - PHOTO BY DAVE DECKER
Photo by Dave Decker
Silver Oaks Apartments in Tampa, Florida on April 19, 2022.
In another apartment that was vacant and being prepared for the next tenant, black mold was peeking through wet white paint. Tenants there said that this is what they do, they paint over the mold and move new people in.

Many of the air-conditioning units at the apartments weren't working, they said, and a side gate entrance to the property was bolted shut by management, raising fire safety concerns from Hurtak and her team.

After seeing several of the units, Hurtak said that the conditions were "horrific" and that inhaling the moldy air was affecting her breathing.

"And we were only in there for, you know, five minutes per apartment. People have to live that way their children are growing up, breathing that in, and that affects brain growth which will affect the children for the rest of their lives," Hurtak said. "I'm new to this, but we're looking at any possible ways and different things we can do to help because  it's just not a tenable solution to leave people living like that."
click to enlarge Black mold inside a unit Silver Oaks Apartments in Tampa, Florida on April 19, 2022. - PHOTO BY DAVE DECKER
Photo by Dave Decker
Black mold inside a unit Silver Oaks Apartments in Tampa, Florida on April 19, 2022.
Cambridge Property Management runs Silver Oaks Apartments, which was constructed by Southport Development Services. Both companies have been exposed by politicians and the media for ill-maintained properties across Florida, several of which had similar ailments as Silver Oaks.

CL has reached out several times to Cambridge Management for comment but has not yet received a response. 

About The Author

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia previously wrote for the USA Today Network, The Economic Hardship Reporting Project, Scalawag Magazine, and various other news outlets. When he's not writing, Justin likes to make music, read, play basketball and spend time with loved ones. 


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