Conditions considered a health emergency at a Miami Beach affordable housing complex have become so deplorable for residents that the county is intervening to fix them, saying it cannot go on any longer.
For a complex located near Collins Avenue and 79th Street, the roof is falling apart and bugs are biting residents. Both the Miami Dade Housing Authority and non-profit agency Miami Beach Community Development Corporation -- both of which operate these units -- say conditions are completely unacceptable.
The non-profit says it can fix it, but the county says time has run out and that they are taking over.
"Out of nowhere, I literally came home, and it was full of like the dust and the whole ceiling was on the floor, and it all collapsed here in the kitchen," said medical worker Dulce Gutierrez, who lives in the building with her daughter.
Images taken in September show parts of the ceiling scattered on the floor. Now, only half of the building is occupied — the other tenants are gone. Gutierrez says there are mold and insects everywhere.
"We’re getting bit," she said. "(My daughter) is bit all over from these gnats. We’ve gotten sick a lot."
The attorney for the Miami Beach Community Development Corporation told NBC 6 their new management has plans to fix this and other units, but the county says that time has come and gone.
"Unbelievable and not acceptable," Miami Dade Housing director Michael Liu said when asked of his reaction when he first saw the conditions.
According to Liu, there has been a decade of mismanagement by the development association that runs 341 units. The county says two of their Miami Beach properties are already in default — the taxpayers owed $120,000 from one building.
"The organization, which is the poor manager and the bad management right now, and we hope that they see fit that the way to go — rather than try to fight us and be stubborn about it — to agree to work with us," Liu said.
The owners even broke their agreements with tenants to provide affordable housing, Liu said.
"Back in 2017, without telling us, and contrary to the agreement that they have with us, they told the people (to) move out because we want to convert these properties to market rate rents at $1,300 and $1,900 dollars a month," Liu said.
That huge increase forced some out, but Gutierrez is one tenant who stayed —ignoring an eviction order — with no other $600 a month units around.
"Even looking for an apartment, they ask for first last and security," she said. "That’s hard to come up with ... when you’re working paycheck to paycheck."
The owners say they are rescinding any effort to evict Gutierrez or to increase rents.
The board of directors of the Miami Beach Community Development Corporation sent the following statement through its attorney:
"MBCDC is closing on financing which will provide funds to repair the roof and other needed repairs at the Crespi Apartments. There have been recent staffing changes at the CDC and the Board is actively addressing the County’s concerns. MBCDC is committed to providing safe and decent housing to its tenants."
The attorney for the property owners says the county delivered the payout amount on its original loan and that has held up its financing to get this resolved.
The county hired a property management company and sent inspectors out to the apartments on Thursday.
Liu made it clear to NBC 6 that this trouble is going to end and the county is not going to let anyone live like this.