Following media scrutiny of the dangerous living conditions at Tampa's Silver Oaks Apartments, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried is calling for federal intervention in an attempt to get the problems fixed.
Last Thursday, May 5, Fried sent a letter to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge about the situation.
"The conditions found recently at Cambridge Management’s Silver Oaks Apartments in Tampa, Florida, are neither safe nor sanitary," Fried wrote. "Residents have complained of mold, collapsed ceilings, water leakage from appliances, broken central air, and vermin."
A month ago, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay exposed the issues residents at the complex are living with, which include collapsing ceilings, broken AC units, consistent flooding and vermin infestation. Since then, Cambridge Management has moved to make some repairs at Silver Oaks and other complexes that it runs, but residents are still complaining about the ongoing infrastructure issues.
"While tenants play a role in unit maintenance, the current state of Silver Oaks Apartments shows an abandonment of responsibility by the property’s management," Fried continued. "The presence of mold in HUD housing is particularly concerning."
Fried said that it is not possible for any tenant in a humid, sub-tropical climate to combat mold when faced with water leakage and broken central air units, which tenants at Silver Oaks have been experiencing.
"The effects of indoor mold exposure have been linked to upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, wheeze, and have been shown to exacerbate asthma symptoms," Fried wrote.
Fried wrote that measures such as maintaining airtight HVAC systems, using proper materials for building and insulation, and designing HVAC systems to manage air flow are crucial for managing mold in hot climate homes.
"Understandably, many Floridians are outraged by the living conditions Silver Oaks residents are being subjected to and have sought remediation from the local housing authority, the Florida Department of Business Professional Regulation, and my department," Fried wrote
"As Section 8 is a federal program there is little assistance we can offer our constituents on the state and local levels," Fried wrote. "It is essential that HUD perform a timely Real Estate Assessment Center inspection of the Silver Oaks Apartments along with taking swift action to rectify any issues posing a risk to residents’ health."
Fried asked that going forward, that HUD to continue to work with authorities at all levels to strengthen safeguards in order to prevent similar situations from arising.
"The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stands ready to support HUD and our state and local partners in efforts to improve procedures and standards to assure that current and future Section 8 PBRA housing lives up to these standards, "It is imperative that Floridians can count on HUD to partner with state and local housing providers for safe, sanitary housing."