St. Pete’s Jordan Park Public Housing Project: ‘You Paid for It’ twice and then some

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Taxpayers spent more than $27 million in 2001 to rebuild the Jordan Park housing project and gave it to private developers for virtually nothing.  Now taxpayers are buying back Jordan Park 15 years later. In other words, You Paid For It twice.

And the bills for taxpayers won’t stop there.

The St. Petersburg Housing authority says in addition to paying $400,000 cash to buy back the project developers didn’t pay for in the first place, the Authority will forgive millions in grants and loans that the developers would have had to pay eventually. The Authority will also spend millions more in tax dollars to restore 237 apartments that have fallen into disrepair under the developer’s ownership.

“That’s a great deal for taxpayers,” said Housing Authority CEO Tony Love. “At this point in time to get an asset of 24 acres of land, 237 apartments, that’s a very good deal. All I know is the value of the property is lot more than $400,000.”

Not everyone agrees.

“That’s a bone of  contention for me,” said Terri Lipsey Scott who runs the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum located on Jordan Park property.  “I am totally perplexed as to why we’re having to purchase something that’s already owned not only by the state and federal government—by the taxpayers of the local entity.”

Scott worked as a St. Pete mayoral assist for decades before retiring and has become a vocal advocate of Jordan Park Residents and an outspoken critic of Jordan Park’s private management.

“I’m always baffled at the deals that are made as it reflects these negotiable backdoor deals that suggest we should pay again.”

One of the things that really rankles Scott is that the private owners-developers are essentially dumping the project just as federal tax credits are expiring and leaving it up to taxpayers and the Housing Authority to restore Jordan Park to proper living conditions.

As long ago as 2004 Major Rick Baker—who Scott worked for at the time—raised serious questions about deteriorating conditions at the project, under private ownership and property management.

“I think it’s quite evident conditions have not improved and are indeed worse,” Scott said.

Some longtime residents complain that until very recently when the sale was imminent, Jordan Park was choked with high weeds and uncut grass, infested with rats and snakes, termite-ridden and in general disrepair with aging appliances and homes badly in need of a paint job.  All of this while the project—under conditions of the original sale—was supposed to maintain HUD Public Housing Standards for 50 years. And all while the developers were pocketing HUD rent subsidies along with all the rent from residents.

“I can hear them at night in the walls scratching,” said Sylvia Norris who says she is terrified by rats and mice.

She claims one of her elderly neighbors personally killed 65 rats before Jordan Park’s private property managers finally brought the problem under control in recent months.

Does Norris think the re-purchase of Jordan Park is a bad deal for taxpayers?

“Yes I do,” Norris said. “Not unless they get everything up to par like it used to be.”

Tonight at 6 – we’ll dig into this deal in our You Paid For It segment on News Channel 8. 

MORE ‘YOU PAID FOR IT’ INVESTIGATIONS

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