By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
Calabrese acknowledges there may be relationships established between contractors and inspectors. "I've had meetings with inspectors to ask them to stay at arm's length, but I wouldn't say they've used friendships to favor contractors," he maintains.
It's understandable that the Metro-Dade Housing Agency would want to distance itself from some of the contractors on its list. Of the 29 contractors listed as participating in the program as of January 1, 1998, thirteen have had complaints on record with the Regulation Division Contractors Licensing and Enforcement Section of the Planning, Development and Regulation Department, which keeps a database that goes back to 1992. The complaints range from minor mixups with permits to shoddy workmanship and failure to fulfill contractual obligations.
But according to construction manager Oscar DeGuevara, the housing agency can't inform homeowners about contractor complaints. Nor can it favor county-licensed contractors over those who have a state license, even though the former are more easily prosecuted for malfeasance. (County-licensed contractors go before a construction board that adjudicates complaints, but the state is more likely to consider such disputes civil matters best settled in court, according to enforcement officers at the Department of Planning, Development, and Regulation.)
One of the last recommendations the housing agency task force made to director Rodriguez was to develop a better marketing plan to advertise the program, one that would also underscore the message that the money given is a loan, not a grant. Certainly agency officials could find it difficult to sell the program if they rely on word-of-mouth. They might run into comments like these from Gloria West: "I wouldn't go this way again if I had a choice."
West knows an elderly couple whose house is in desperate need of rewiring, but she hesitates to tell them about Single Family Rehab. "I feel bad, but I don't want to recommend the program to them," she says.