By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
I have been following reports on the plight of Fairway Oaks Homeowners Association in Jacksonville, Florida, since 2016. Fairways Oaks is an affordable housing community built by Habitat for Humanity volunteers in 2000.
Less than a decade following construction, homeowners – each of them paying off a 25-year mortgage used to purchase their homes – noticed large cracks in their concrete slab foundations. From those cracks, insects and noxious odors have entered many of the homes. Now that the floors are uneven, doors and windows no longer open and close properly.
Experts hired by Fairway Oaks HOA, and their attorneys at the time, discovered that the 85-home community has been built on the site of a former landfill.
Apparently, before construction began in 2000, there had been no effort made to haul away debris dumped just below surface soil. As a result, concrete slab foundations lack stable footing, resulting in homes sinking into the soil, cracking home foundations.
Homeowners say they were never told that their homes were built on top of a former garbage dump.
Back in 2016, when this discovery was first reported, the City of Jacksonville and the local Habitat for Humanity Chapter (HabiJax) vowed to take care of the problems.
But in more than 2 years, nothing has been done to correct the problem or to relocate residents to safer homes. Residents have filed a lawsuit against HabiJax and the City of Jacksonville, and the matter is still pending.
Recently, Fairway Oaks homeowners staged a protest outside the courthouse, seeking “economic justice.” Homeowners remain concerned about their exposure to methane gas and toxins from contaminated soil beneath broken foundations of their homes.
HabiJax and the City are attempting to dismiss legal claims, insisting that the owners did not file their complaints within the statute of limitations.
So much for their dreams of affordable home ownership.
Circuit Court Judge Karen Cole must decide if the homeowners’ case can proceed. Attorney Jack Krumbein and others representing the homeowners are seeking class action status.
Protest at courthouse says home foundations are sinking because neighborhood built on former dump site
Posted December 7, 2017 07:20 pm
By David Bauerlein
Fairway Oaks residents took their long-running protest Thursday to the steps of the Duval County Courthouse where they chanted for “economic justice” and called attention to a suit that contends the city and HabiJax failed to tell them their neighborhood was built in 2000 on the site of a former city landfill.
One of the protest signs had a photo of former President Jimmy Carter, who lent a helping hand in the building blitz of 85 homes for Fairway Oaks, with the question, “Did HabiJax and the city tell you this is a dump?”
The city and HabiJax, which is the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, are seeking dismissal of the lawsuit on grounds that it fails to build a factual case for its claims and was filed years after the statute of limitations expired for such litigation.
The protest outside the courthouse had some urgency because Circuit Court Karen Cole had scheduled a hearing for Thursday afternoon on the motions asking her to toss the suit.
Despite the pending lawsuit, Habitat for Humanity in Jacksonville continues to build new homes
Ironically, HabiJax has proceeded with two more affordable housing projects in Jacksonville.
Legacy 8, an 8-unit townhouse community on a half-acre lot, made possible by a $1 million Weaver grant.
… and a pair of side-by-side duplex homes (“twin” homes) built for “female head of households.”
As is the case for Fairway Oaks, residents will own their new homes, and will be responsible for making regular mortgage payments.
Given the history of Fairway Oaks, should new HabiJax homeowners be concerned about facing similar economic injustice or latent construction defects in 5, 10, or 20 years?