Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried visited Tampa’s Silver Oaks Apartments for the second time today and promised further action from her office to correct the complex’s problems. in trouble.
Fried took a tour of the units, where she got to see firsthand the infrastructure issues where collapsing ceilings, black mold and rodents have residents living in what they described to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay as a “nightmare”.
The gubernatorial candidate spoke with several tenants about issues they have faced for several years and reviewed a tenant’s lease inside her unit. The tenant told Fried that she had been asking for help in her unit since 2014, then appealing to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn for help.
After Fried’s walkthrough, she told the press what she saw and what she planned to do about the ongoing issues there.
“Hearing stories of water running over electric units blowing out their AC unit, seeing mold on the ceiling and on the floors, and the [management] just painting on it…it’s not a quality way of life, and we need to find out who’s responsible for making sure people live here with dignity and pride,” Fried told reporters.
Fried said she wanted to follow the money and see what could be done about the poor maintenance management of the complex by Southport Development and Cambridge Management. Both companies accept federal money to provide affordable housing in Silver Oaks and apartment complexes in Florida, but Fried feared the companies misused the funds and failed to maintain the properties.
Last week, Fried wrote to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development after discovering he should take the lead on the Silver Oaks situation because his office lacks the power that federal authorities have.
Yet today, Fried has vowed to do what she can from her desk.
One thing she can do immediately is examine the security guards that are posted around Silver Oaks. Inside the complex, a resident told Fried that one of the guards pointed his gun at a tenant and regularly harassed women and children, causing the children to fear for their lives.
Several other residents also said that security guards regularly harass tenants and that guards repeatedly tried to get this CL reporter out of the property.
“I regulate security guards, so a notice to all security guards who are inside here,” Fried said. “If you dare to harass and take out guns on locals, you are going to have a price to pay.”
Fried said if security guards go beyond their authority by posing a threat to tenants, his office has the authority to suspend the security company’s license and potentially even revoke it permanently.
Asked what can be done about the management companies, which have repeatedly been exposed for trouble at state compounds, Fried said lawsuits aren’t out of the question.
“If we have bad actors, we have to get rid of them. And obviously they’re not doing their job here to keep these residents safe, both security-wise but also health-care-wise and safety,” Fried said. mentioned. “And so those are the questions we’re asking now and looking at these companies to see what needs to be done. If there’s going to be a lawsuit, then that’s what needs to happen.”
Fried said state statutes needed to be tightened to make it easier to regulate companies such as Cambridge Management and Southport Development Services.
“We need to figure out what we need to do to strengthen the laws that regulate housing, and how companies get contracts to buy properties, and contracts to manage properties, so we can figure out where the responsibility lies for the hold accountable,” Fried said.
During the conference, Fried spoke to a group of children who live in Silver Oaks.
As the children watched her speak from behind the gates surrounding the property, Fried said, “They’re taking money from the federal government and then disregarding their responsibilities to these children.”