Rats, roaches, mold: Grand Park apartment residents complain about ongoing issues, horrid living conditions
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Rats, roaches, mold: Grand Park apartment residents complain about ongoing issues, horrid living conditions

Sep 28, 2023

Vic Micolucci, I-Team reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Residents at a Grand Park apartment complex are begging for help. They said they’ve endured horrid living conditions without any repairs for years.

“We are having to live with the roaches, the rats, the holes in the wall, the water leaking,” said resident April Sizemore, a mother of two.

The News4JAX I-TEAM discovered through an open records request that the city of Jacksonville has investigated dozens of complaints about the Cascade Apartments on Kings Road. They were formerly known as the Kings Ridge Apartments.

The apartments are part of the federal HUD program and are considered affordable housing.

It took no time for us to notice the problems outside the Cascade Apartments: mold, crumbling staircases, and boarded-up units.

Go inside Sizemore’s apartment and it gets worse. Her kitchen counter is caved in over a rusty water heater.

“It’s black mold,” she said while pointing at a growth that’s accumulated. She has a fly trap over the stove to catch flies and sticky traps under the cupboard for roaches. The I-TEAM counted five roaches in one trap.

She said the problems began two years ago and have persisted. There’s a large, damp bubble hanging from her popcorn ceiling. The walls are patched without paint. Another spot remained open until she used a plastic bag and tape to cover it.

Sizemore has a 13-year-old and a 14-year-old. Her son has special needs.

“That’s my baby, the one with the restricted airway,” she said, pointing to her son sitting on a box outside the front door.

She pays $800 a month plus utilities. That swallows up almost everything she gets from social security. She says she can’t work because of health problems and lives off $912. She can’t afford a car and said other apartments are out of her price range.

“That mold itself is not going to help any of our lungs. Any apartment out here has that,” she said. “I don’t have Section 8. I don’t have hood, public housing. Have I put an application in? Yes, sir, I have. Am I still on the waiting list? Yes, I am. Am I hoping and praying that I get approved? Yes, I am,” Sizemore said.

Several other residents also begged us to help.

Eric Jackson says the unit his family of four shares hasn’t had central air conditioning in years. He showed us a broken unit outside. The wires are loose and it appears it had the outside had been damaged.

Jackson purchased two small window units and installed them himself. He works but said he still can’t make ends meet enough to get his family into a better home.

“Cost me about 800 bucks for two,” he said. “It’s crazy. They said they were going to fix it, fix it, fix it, but nobody ever came out and fixed it.”

The I-TEAM pulled records from the city of Jacksonville and code inspectors sent us a file with dozens of compliance issues from 2022 and 2023. Investigators have warned and fined the property managers for violations like unsanitary conditions, electrical issues, and rodents.

Monday afternoon, management approached us as we were shooting this story and told us to leave. It’s important to note we were on a city street and that’s protected by the First Amendment. AND state law says we can go into a resident’s apartment if they invite us in. On a separate call, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers in the complex confirmed the road was on public property. We left the common areas of the complex after being asked to leave.

“Please don’t record us please get off our property,” said a woman who identified herself as the property manager. She declined the I-TEAM’s request for an interview or a response to the claims.

“I’m the property manager, but we are asking you to get off our property,” she said.

Lafayette Management Group, which has an office in Jacksonville and Orlando oversees the property. Florida corporate records show the complex is owned by Cascade Residential, Inc out of Hollywood, Florida. We left a message for comment.

“Everybody has issues, and no one is complaining,” said Andre Fousse, another resident.

He said mold in his apartment is causing breathing and heart problems. He complained to the city and the federal government.

He claims other residents are afraid that they’ll get evicted with nowhere else to go.

At least one report from a code inspector cited this fear. The inspector wrote that a resident reported issues but then asked to remove their complaint out of fear of reprisal from management.

Senator Marco Rubio provided News4JAX with a statement on Tuesday.

Members of my staff recently visited Cascade Apartments in Jacksonville. They found the conditions to be disgusting and deplorable. These residents deserve better. Floridians deserve to live in safe and clean homes, without having to worry about crumbling walls, mold, pests, and other health hazards. I am calling on the management of Cascade to immediately address these issues and to ensure that all of their residents are living in habitable conditions.

A HUD spokesperson and the senator’s office said they are looking into our questions about the conditions at the apartment complex.

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