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Gainesville housing shows wear and tear

POSTED: March 3, 2013 12:21 a.m.
Sarah Mueller/The Times

Versailles Apartments is one example of rundown housing that the city of Gainesville is concerned about. Residents there say they'd like to move somewhere nicer but that apartment management does work to fix things on the property.

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Versailles Apartments look rundown. 

Some of the buildings’ doors don’t lock. One building door is off its hinges and lies against the brick wall of the building behind some shrubs. The carpet is old and ripped and many of buildings are vacant or boarded up.
But people do live in the complex, like one mother and her 25-year-old daughter who have been there nine years and pay about $500 a month.

They plan to move somewhere nicer, the daughter said, but for now they must stay put since she and two of her sisters have applied for paperwork to give them legal status in the country. They asked not to be named because of their status as illegal immigrants.

Their home, though, is an example of a concern for the city of Gainesville, which has been talking recently about rundown properties.

Gainesville has gone from five code enforcement officers to three because of budget cuts. Gary Kansky, city code enforcement manager, is one of those three.

He said code enforcement covers a lot of regulations and a lot of ground, and with the department shorthanded, code violation investigations have become a bit more complaint-driven than patrol-driven.

“We go out and investigate every complaint,” he said. “If it’s valid, we go after them.”

The division handed out 31 citations for the last fiscal year, but they often try education and warnings first, Kansky said. A code enforcement officer may be asked to respond to a variety of situations, including a loose dog, unauthorized use of a Dumpster or an unsafe structure.

Versailles Apartments is owned by Grelove LLC, which also owns Norwood and Brentwood Apartments. The company is owned by Gainesville businessman John Lovell. Both Lovell and staff in the Gainesville Community Development department, which includes code enforcement and the housing division, declined to comment specifically on the apartment complexes. The three complexes are close to each other on Park Hill Drive.
Gainesville City Solicitor John Breakfield said there was one citation for an unsafe structure at Norwood Apartments, for which Lovell pleaded no contest. Lovell’s attorney, Abb Hayes, said there are no open cases against his client.

Code enforcement officers, as part of their investigation, go out to inspect structures and take pictures and notes. They work with other city of Gainesville departments and staff, including the building inspector, Public Works and Public Utilities.

Gainesville has identified some housing issues around the city, including vacant housing not being maintained, low-income housing not being maintained and inadequate housing for the homeless.

The 25-year-old living at Versailles said her mother doesn’t want to make trouble for her neighbors or the apartment managers.

Management sprays for cockroaches and fixes broken appliances or other maintenance issues. They also work with the residents on rent, the women said.

The mother said “city people” have come by the apartments and she said they seemed concerned with the outside looking clean.

Apartment staff does work on the outside, making sure there’s no trash and landscaping is taken care of, they said.

The 25-year-old translates a lot for her mother, and as they speak, there are sounds of work men laboring on the other side of the building. However, the hallway walls and stairs outside the family’s apartment door are dirty and the mother said management stopped cleaning those areas about three years ago. She cleans the hallway herself with bleach.

She said she heard rumors the apartment complex was going to be “thrown away,” but she said she likes and feels secure living there. Most who live in the complex are Hispanic and they’ve become a community, she said.
Gainesville police officers keep an eye on the complex. Neighbors know their neighbors, and kids who live in the complex play in the vacant areas.

“For us, like poor people, we can’t complain, you know,” the mother said.


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