Jacksonville Affordable Housing Residents Struggle With Trash Pile Ups, Mold & Mildew

Mar 15, 2019

Residents at an affordable housing community in Northwest Jacksonville say they regularly struggle with overflowing Dumpsters as well as mold and mildew in their apartments.

When WJCT went to Hampton Villa Apartments on Monday, the obvious problem was the two Dumpsters which were overflowing with garbage.

Nadine Singleton has been a Hampton Villa resident for about five years and has lived in her current apartment for the past six months or so. She never had any problems until about two years ago, when Cambridge Management, Inc., took over the complex.

Since then, she said, overflowing Dumpsters have become a common occurrence. “It’s almost like every other month since this new management company took over,” she said.

On Monday, when Singleton and others first spoke to WJCT, residents said there had been about 15 big turkey vultures picking at the trash, which hadn’t been collected for at least two weeks.

Singleton said Hampton Villa management told residents the trash wasn’t being collected because of an issue with bill payments, which are handled by corporate. Cambridge is headquartered in Tacoma, Wash., with a regional office in Tampa.

As frustrating as the garbage problem has been for Singleton, she said the bigger issue is the never ending struggle with mold and mildew in her apartment.

Photos of mold and mildew in Nadine Singleton's Hampton Villa apartment.
Credit Nadine Singleton

“My apartment, and several other apartments, we’re suffering with mold and mildew in the house,” she said. “And all they keep telling us is they tested it, they’re going to have somebody come out and treat it. Nobody has treated our apartments other than some Clorox.”

More photos of mold and mildew in Nadine Singleton's Hampton Villa apartment.
Credit Nadine Singleton

Singleton and others struggling with the issue have been regularly buying Clorox to try and clean the mold and mildew, but it keeps coming back.

“I’m on a fixed income, most everybody out here is on a fixed income, and Clorox ain’t cheap,” she said. “And you gotta go keep buying gallons and gallons of Clorox bleach and treat your apartment.”

She said management did have someone come out to run some tests a while back.

“The contractor that they did bring out here, he says my apartment alone is 88 percent of humidity,” said Singleton. “How do you have 88 percent of humidity inside your apartment?”

After those tests were done, Singleton said a manager came out and used some type of spray on the walls where mold and mildew kept growing. “But it’s not lasting. It’s not taking it away,” she said. “It clears it up, just like we’re doing with the Clorox. It’s cleaning it up for the moment. Then it starts again.”

So now she regularly buys DampRid.

“I ain’t never have to do this kind of stuff in my life. DampRid to put in your apartment to keep the moisture out,” Singleton said. “Then he says, ‘well, why don’t y'all go ahead and get you a [de]humidifier.’ Really? Who can afford that? I looked at one, I think the cheapest one was $100. It’s horrible.”

She said keeping the mold and mildew off of her walls, furniture and even her clothes is a constant struggle. She can’t hang all her clothes up in the closet because if she does, they get covered in mold and mildew and she can’t afford to buy replacements.

“You clean one wall today, by the time you think you’ve got it gone, you gotta go to the other side and clean the other side. This is just… it’s not fair,” she said, visibly frustrated. “It’s very heartbreaking and we’re having to suffer.”

On top of the amount of time it takes to keep her apartment clean and the financial burden it places on her shoulders, Singleton said the mold and mildew is affecting her health. She’s a heart patient and it adds to the complications she’s already dealing with. She said she often has trouble breathing and she frequently finds herself wheezing.

And she’s not alone.

Marie Harmon has been a Hampton Villa resident for four years but just moved into her current apartment about a month ago. Since then, she’s regularly struggled with mold and mildew and she’s constantly congested and wheezing.

She thinks it must be due to the mold and mildew because in her previous upstairs apartment - which was mold and mildew free - she didn’t have any health problems.

Cambridge responded to WJCT’s request for comment on Thursday. In an email, Marketing and Public Relations Specialist Katelynn DeSart Perez wrote the following:

“Providing the best quality homes for our residents is our top priority. We are grateful to our residents who informed us of their concerns. The issue with trash has been resolved and we do not expect it to be a problem moving forward. It is our understanding that any service requests are being resolved appropriately. We ask any residents with remaining concerns to reach out to our team as soon as possible so we may work together to address them.”

“Yes, the garbage was emptied yesterday,” Nadine Singleton told WJCT Friday morning. “Believe it or not, though, it’s full again!”

Singleton said nobody from Cambridge actually came to speak to residents. But a maintenance worker was walking around the complex with people on Wednesday.

“There’s some inspection that’s supposed to be going around sometime today. And yes, they had also a gentleman come out and take a look at the problems with our mold and mildew,” said Singleton. “But looking at it and taking care of it is two different things. I’m at a point where I’m tired of your looking. I want to see some kind of action.”

Singleton said she will keep WJCT up to date on any developments at the Hampton Villa Apartments going forward.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.