Complex still squalid after feds paid millions for rehab, Rubio says. He wants audit

Sen. Marco Rubio is calling for a financial audit of the owners of the Glorieta Gardens apartments, following a Herald investigation that found the conditions at the subsidized, low-income housing complex had worsened following a multimillion-dollar rehab.

Rubio asked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday to audit Glorieta Partners, the partnership that owns Glorieta Gardens, and its contractors, “to ensure federal tax dollars were used as intended in the rehabilitation and management of Glorieta Gardens,” he wrote.

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The bathroom in an abandoned apartment in the Glorieta Gardens apartment complex in Opa-locka is covered with mold.

Jose A. Iglesias jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

“Over the course of multiple visits, Senator Rubio’s staff saw firsthand the slum-like living conditions of residents, which included layers of mold coating walls, sewage leaking into kitchens, and corroded pipes,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “The senator is committed to ensuring that tenants of Glorieta Gardens live in safe and sanitary conditions.”

The federal government subsidizes the Gardens’ 328 apartments through its Section 8 housing assistance program. In 2015, the Herald reported, Glorieta Partners received $24 million in tax-exempt bonds for the stated purpose of buying and renovating Glorieta Gardens. Glorieta Partners bought the complex from Creative Choice Group, owned by real estate developer Dilip Barot, for $20.3 million; the partnership consists of a company managed by Barot’s wife and the nonprofit New Vision Housing Foundation, which shares the address of Barot’s company.

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Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Internal Revenue Service calling for an audit of Glorieta Gardens.

Glorieta Partners is also receiving $15.5 million in federal tax credits for low-income housing renovations from the state, though the credits have not yet been distributed.

Staff from Rubio’s office visited Glorieta Gardens, located in two sections on Alexandria Drive and Northwest 30th Avenue off Opa-locka Boulevard, after the Herald reported that widespread mold, roach, sewage and flooding issues persisted even after the rehab.

“Tenants reported that they received appliances that do not work, experienced instances where their walls were painted to cover rust and mold, and experience constant flooding,” Rubio’s letter to HUD and the IRS said. “Tenants were assured by management that a ‘state-of-the-art security camera system’ would be installed, however, no such security system is believed to be present on the property, while violent crime and drive-by shootings remain prevalent.”

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Mold covers the walls of the only bathroom in Tamika Knights’ apartment that she shares with her four children at the Glorieta Gardens complex in Opa-locka. Despite constant cleaning with bleach, the mold never fails to grow back.

Jose A. Iglesias jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

Federal regulations require housing complexes like Glorieta Gardens to be decent, safe, sanitary, in good repair and free of health and safety hazards.

The property’s latest renovation work was marked as completed on Feb. 19, 2018, a status report shows, but just three months later, on May 24, the complex failed a federal inspection with a score of 58, two points below the passing score. The owners appealed and received a barely passing score of 67 out of 100 points.

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A section of the ceiling has collapsed in this abandoned apartment at Glorieta Gardens and mold covers the walls and what remains of the ceiling.

Jose A. Iglesias jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

“They made it look pretty with a little paint,” said Talisa Hamilton, 54, who has lived at the Gardens for 24 years. “This was not a multimillion-dollar job.”