Sunday, June 17, 2007


There have been complaints from homeowners of Fairway Oaks community in Jacksonville, Florida. Residents have complained about cracks in the foundation and mildew. The community was founded by Habitat for Humanity and is run by HabiJax. Legal Aid has stepped in and has received resistance from HabiJax.

April Charney is with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid. She's gathering information from homeowners in the Fairway Oaks community hoping to get answers for them.

"HabiJax is basically taking a 'catch us catch can' approach. The city really isn't stepping up to the plate at this point and offer their resources to get in control of these issues," says April Charney with Jacksonville Legal Aid.

Residents have complained about a mysterious rash that has broken out.

"The dead skin just dries up and it looks like this. It itches, and it hurts," says Johnson as she extends her left wrist to show a dry flaky rash.

That's another problem many have had to cope with. This is also the same area where the mysterious rashes broke out. So far, the Health Department has not found a link between all the cases.

Johnson says her children are also experiencing headaches. Fairway Oaks was built over a former waste site. Community members have asked the Mayor's office to investigate the cause of the rash outbreak.

Legal Aid found that the problems are widespread. Their survey showed neglect from HabiJax.

The Fairway Oaks owners took their complaints to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, and of 56 who answered a survey for Legal Aid, 41 reported cracked concrete slabs, 22 had cracked walls and 48 said their houses were infested with insects or rodents, presumably because of the cracks. Others reported mold or mildew, nails popping out of plasterboard and other problems. The Habitat for Humanity local affiliate, HabiJax, maintains that the land at Fairway Oaks is stable and that most problems there are housekeeping issues, not structural. City inspectors this month examined six houses and found no violations. But in a vulnerable population, the perceptions have a life of their own. A project built with sweat equity and good will has had unintended consequences, and costs.

Now that the story has made the New York Times website; it will be interesting to see how HabiJax reacts.

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