St. Pete mayoral candidate Robert Blackmon slammed by union for abuse of tenants
Tuesday the Union of tenants of St. Petersburg (SPTU) and militant group Florida on the rise gathered at Paradise Apartments in the Bayou Highlands area to denounce what they say is abuse by owner Robert G. Blackmon, a former city councilor from District 1 and current mayoral candidate.
SPTU says that on April 30, Blackmon purchased the 10-unit apartment complex at 330 45th Ave. S and that two tenants immediately received notices of non-renewal of their leases. On May 11, they were ordered to leave their homes within three weeks. SPTU says another tenant received three days’ notice for non-payment of rent, despite Center for Disease Control’s moratorium on evictions which stays in place until the end of the month.
During the press conference, the SPTU pushed back Blackmon’s actions.
“We believe that there has been little to no effort on the part of Blackmon Properties to improve conditions and work with late renting residents,” said William Kilgore of SPTU.
The SPTU sent a letter demanding that the repairs be done in full and that all eviction cases be voluntarily dismissed by Blackmon.
Tenants complained about several critical maintenance failures involving the building’s plumbing, electrical systems and appliances.
Terrance Gordon says his ceiling sank on him due to an air conditioning malfunction for almost three months. The union says that one of the women who lived in an apartment did not have a working oven for months. They claim that Blackmon only started repairing the property recently after the SPTU started staging a protest.
On July 15, Blackmon Properties dismissed all three eviction cases.
“I am proud to be a provider of quality affordable housing in Saint Petersburg. My family business operates affordable apartments all over the city. We have worked to increase the supply of affordable housing in our community, ”Blackmon wrote in a statement to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. “When we acquired Paradise Apartments on April 30 of this year, we immediately started preparations for major property improvements. However, a number of residents were both non-communicative and non-paying, hampering the ability to make necessary repairs and upgrades. “
Blackmon says they are moving forward with a six-figure repair and renovation of Paradise Apartments and are not currently seeking to evict any residents of Paradise Apartments, and are committed to making this property something that residents of. Paradise and the community can be proud of. He has sent CL Tampa Bay several photos of what he says are renovations and improvements to his properties.
July 17, Florida Politics wrote about the ongoing issues in the apartment complex. The story included a confirmed Facebook post from 2012 where Blackmon said, “I just bought a 5 unit apartment building downtown. Now chase the tenants and start the renovations… ”
Rober Blackmon’s Facebook / Florida Policy
The SPTU sees the dismissal of the eviction cases as a victory and a step in the right direction, but said their work is far from over at Paradise Apartments, and across town, is far from over.
Despite the CDC’s moratorium on evictions, the SPTU says landlords continue to regularly evict tenants. According to SPTU figures, 4,910 residential evictions have been filed within the city limits of St. Petersburg since April 2020. The majority of those evictions have affected low-income people of color, they say. They referred to the evils of capitalism as the main reason for this treatment of tenants during an economic crisis.
“Housing insecurity has been directly linked to reduced quality of life, systemic inequalities, mental trauma and premature death,” the SPTU wrote in its press conference announcement.
The union is calling for repairs and renovations to be fully completed at Blackmon properties and for all tenants to be given the opportunity to sign long-term leases to lock in current rent prices based on their income, which could allow them to live in the property for years to come.
SPTU’s Karla Correa referred to the evictions occurring as Tampa Bay rent prices increase more than any other city in the country.
“Gentrification is ravaging our city at an alarming rate,” Correa said. “This type of behavior is not acceptable on the part of anyone, especially an elected official.”
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