People living in the Jones Walker apartments pleaded for help during the Fort Myers City Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 4. Families explained their living conditions are a hazard to their health.
"Many of us are in here from Jones Walker asking the same thing,” a tenant explained to City Council.
In effort to get residents the help they need, the Fort Myers City Council said it will ask the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for 80 vouchers. Residents will use these vouchers to move into better living conditions.
Longtime residents said the complex has gone through seven different owners in the past nine years.
According to published news reports, Jones Walker Apartments is currently owned by the Teaneck, NJ, real estate company, Treetop Development.
Treetop Development’s principal, Azi (Aziel) Mandel, is listed as the lead on the transaction. Treetop purchased the 80-unit property in 2014 for more than $2 million. In 2010, it was sold for $1.83 million.
Several apartments have broken window air conditioning units. Some are infested with roaches. A number of the units have mold.
Some of the residents said they’ve tried to handle pest control themselves.
“I’ve bombed the apartment for roaches,” Robin Gadsden said, who moved into her two-bedroom apartment nine years ago. “When I came back the roaches were trying to climb back into the cabinets,” she said.
She even tried to clean the mold by scrubbing it with bleach but she said, “it always comes back.”
“You have to come for yourself and live here," Marchelous Boyd said, who has lived in the Jones Walker apartments for nearly three years. "If you never lived here, you will never know."
HUD usually visits every three months to inspect the property and living conditions. However, some residents say the agency never entered their apartment.
Treetop Development was slapped with numerous fines and citations. The most recent fine was given in June. The notice said the landlord would be charged $2,500 per day until repairs were complete.
“They’ve never fixed any of it,” Robin said, the nine year occupant.
She wonders how long the mold has been there. “There’s no telling what kind of bacteria, fungi and anything else done rolled in this stuff,” Robin said.
Another tenant has had enough with management and its neglect for upkeep.
“If they give me a voucher I swear to God," the tenant said, "they won’t ever have to worry about me ever again.”