Nearly one year after the grand opening of an affordable housing complex in St. Johns County, tenants said they are now moving out because of their living conditions.
The San Marcos Heights housing complex off Hometown Lane is designed to help people with lower household incomes. It offers 132 units with one to three bedrooms, and the average rent is between $800 and $1,200.
Tenant Lisa Cortes, who is disabled, talked to News4JAX last December following the housing complex’s ribbon-cutting ceremony about how excited she was for this new complex.
“It’s amazing, I can do doughnuts in my closet, it’s spacious, I can reach everything, the counters are leveled, I can cook every day, I have a kitchen,” Cortes said.
News4JAX talked to Cortes again on Thursday, and she had a drastically different story about her living conditions.
“Now, there’s roaches, there’s mold, there’s mold coming out of my vents,” Cortes said. “There’s dog poop everywhere, if you go walking through and go to the next breezeway, all that is disgusting.”
Cortes sent News4JAX many pictures of what she says are dog feces smeared on concrete and images of trashcans and dumpsters overflowing.
After voicing her concerns, Cortes said she learned her lease isn’t being renewed. She’s moving out in November, along with Tenant Kim Dudley who said she’s worried about her safety.
“They’ve had actual riots fists fights between girls, people finding knives on the ground, and in the trash cans that kids can get to,” Dudley said.
News4JAX received the following statement from the San Marcos Heights property manager:
Thank you for coming to the property today. We understand the importance of providing quality, affordable living, and our team takes great pride in maintaining our community. We aim to address every concern brought to our attention with timely, meaningful service. Our management employs a full-time office team, maintenance crew, and groundskeeper. Along with a select group of landscaping crews, pest control providers, and waste haulers, our staff works diligently to ensure our apartments’ tidy and inviting nature. These services are offered daily, on a regular schedule, or by request, and we are happy to respond whenever a resident brings a concern to our attention. In addition, we are exploring solutions to increase the effectiveness of our maintenance practices to extend the longevity of our routine and preventative procedures.
We welcome anyone who meets the residency qualifications to live at our community. These requirements include passing a criminal background check and upholding the regulations outlined in the leasing agreement. While we aim to keep the community in excellent condition, we require the assistance of our residents to meet these goals. When residents and guests fail to properly dispose of waste or neglect to report in-home maintenance issues, the well-kept nature of our community can suffer. When these issues violate the leasing agreement, we address them according to the policies laid out within the lease. The residential experience is of the utmost importance to us, and we want every resident to enjoy a comfortable home. Our team is committed to working through any present issue with the care and diligence our residents deserve.
Shayla Howell | Property Manager
As for Cortes and Dudley, both said they will find a new place to live when their lease expires, and they hope that speaking out publicly helps others.
“I’m moving because of safety, but for the people who are here and have to deal with it, I would hope they would do the right thing because they can’t tolerate it,” Dudley said.
News4JAX submitted a public records request with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office to find out how many times deputies have been called to the affordable housing complex for service. We are still waiting for a response.