Cohen and Ross Reintroduce the Bipartisan Housing Accountability Act
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Congressman Dennis Ross (R-FL) today reintroduced the Housing Accountability Act, a bipartisan bill to hold property owners of low-income housing accountable for poor living conditions. This legislation would require the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to survey tenants living in subsidized housing twice a year about property conditions and management performance and create new penalties for property owners who repeatedly fail the tenant surveys. In 2015, local and federal investigations found deplorable living conditions at several federally subsidized-housing properties owned by the Global Ministries Foundation (GMF) in Memphis, Tennessee and Jacksonville, Florida. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced a similar bill in the United States Senate in January.
“I was very disturbed by the deplorable living conditions many Memphians experienced at Warren and Tulane Apartments,” said Congressman Cohen. “Congress must step in to prevent this from happening again in Memphis or anywhere else. Our legislation would hold slumlords of low-income housing accountable for neglecting their properties and their tenants. By surveying tenants directly on property conditions, residents can report any issues directly to HUD without fear of reprisal from owners and managers who have been known to threaten to evict those who try to complain.”
“No matter someone’s income or socioeconomic status, no one deserves to live in squalor,” said Congressman Ross. “Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and to live in a safe, clean home. People from all backgrounds and of all ages are living in deplorable living conditions in subsidized housing, with fear of eviction, retaliation or inaction if they make any reasonable requests or complaints to their landlords or property managers. I am proud to join Rep. Cohen and Sens. Rubio and Nelson in putting forth bipartisan legislation that will help families improve their living conditions, and give them the ability and strength to ensure their homes are up-to-code and well kept.”
Global Ministries Foundation (GMF) is a faith-based non-profit organization located in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2015, numerous media outlets reported on deplorable living conditions at GMF owned properties in Memphis. Apartment units in Memphis had holes in the walls made by rats, exposed electrical wiring, broken windows, no working light, a moldy bathroom and leaky roof. In Jacksonville, Florida, the residents at Eureka Garden, another property owned by GMF, were forced to live in uninhabitable units plagued by mold, gas leaks, water damage, and crumbling staircases.
In addition, GMF-owned properties in Memphis had a combined evaluation of 38, a failing score, but GMF continued to collect $2.3 million in rent subsidies from HUD for those buildings in 2014 and $6.3 million from its six Jacksonville properties.