Hurricane Irma-damaged Civic Towers’ owners face legal battle with city of Miami

Residents allegedly were not allowed to gather their belongings after the two buildings were deemed uninhabitable

Civic Towers
Civic Towers

The city of Miami is turning up the heat on the landlord of a federally subsidized apartment complex that was forced to evacuate 80 tenants just prior to Hurricane Irma hitting Florida.

The city is accusing owner Redwood Housing Partners of Burlingame, California, of preventing residents — many of whom are elderly and suffering from serious health issues — from re-entering Civic Towers to gather their belongings after a Sept. 15 inspection determined the two buildings were not safe to live in, according to a Sept. 20 emergency motion in Miami-Dade Circuit Court filed by Deputy City Attorney John Greco.

A Miami spokesperson said the city doesn’t comment on pending litigation. Redwood Housing managing director Jeff Green also declined comment.

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After Hurricane Irma passed, residents returned to the twin Section 8 buildings at 1855 Northwest 15th Avenue and 1900 Northwest 14th Street only to find out that Miami’s building official Maurice Pons deemed the structures uninhabitable. J.E.M., an engineering firm hired by the city, found that many of the apartments had sustained significant water intrusion and were infested with mold. The inspection company determined that the two towers should remain unoccupied until the apartments are completely renovated.

However, the 80 tenants camped out and slept for nine days in their cars in the parking lot and in the street outside Civic Towers. Most of them have since been relocated to hotel rooms and have been deemed eligible for temporary housing assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Redwood Housing Partners purchased Civic Towers in February for $45 million and began renovating the buildings. About 130 tenants were relocated to hotels, but those who remained had to live in an active construction site. According to the Miami Herald, the renovation project, funded with bonds issued by the Miami-Dade Housing Finance Authority, suffered delays as a result of a dispute between the general contractor and a subcontractor.

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