A Palmetto apartment complex where residents are complaining of deplorable conditions and discrimination has caught the attention of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
Rubio’s office contacted Manatee County Commissioner Charles Smith’s office Wednesday about Bayside Villas, which is just off 20th Lane East in Palmetto.
“We learned of the situation at Bayside Villas through reporting by the Herald and others, and we immediately reached out to local officials to gather more facts,” Rubio said in a statement. “Constituent service is one of our top priorities so our goal is to seek solutions proactively instead of waiting to receive requests for help. ...We’re collecting more information on this case before determining the appropriate course of action.”
The Bradenton Herald has been reporting on the “deplorable” conditions found at Bayside Villas, including residents who say they’ve been told their leases will not be renewed because they talked to the media.
Property owner Robert Goodman has said these residents are making “completely untrue” statements.
“Retaliation like that is against every Fair Housing directive there is,” Goodman said Tuesday. “It’s absolute nonsense, and we never intimidate or coerce a tenant like that. They are saying it for reasons that are completely untrue.”
When asked on Wednesday whether he’s heard from Rubio’s office and whether he had a comment in regard to Rubio looking into the situation, Goodman said in an email: “I have not heard anything from Senator Rubio’s office.”
In a follow-up email, Goodman said “our attorney requested that all further communication be directed to his office.”
Bayside Villas is not the first instance where Rubio has worked on housing issues. On Wednesday, Rubio’s office provided a timeline detailing Rubio’s work on housing issues and holding agencies accountable, including Global Ministries Foundation, which has properties in Jacksonville, Orlando and Riviera Beach.
In September, “Rubio introduced legislation to improve the federal housing inspections process and hold slumlords accountable for misusing taxpayer dollars and endangering the health and safety of residents,” the timeline states.
The bill, the HUD Inspection Process and Enforcement Reform Act of 2016, “stems from his year-long work investigating Global Ministries Foundation,” according to a release sent from his office in September.
For more than a year, Rubio said on Wednesday he has been “very involved in exposing federal housing-related problems around the state.”
“Our efforts have led to multiple federal investigations into slumlords stealing federal tax dollars, and I’ve introduced legislation to reform HUD’s inspections process,” Rubio said.