Editor’s note: The following is the text of a letter that New Visions Community Development Corp. Executive Director Jacqueline Tufts sent via email to elected officials and other acquaintances regarding a story by investigative reporter Elgin Jones. The story ran last week in the Dec. 12 edition of the South Florida Times.
On December 12, 2008, an article was written in the South Florida Times paper referencing New Visions CDC and me.
I am sending this letter to the people who know me very well and those who know of me. Although I feel I have not done anything wrong or tried to mislead anyone or abuse this program, I feel I need to write to all of you to give my side of the story because there are always two sides to every story. Mr. Jones, who wrote the article after he interviewed me and New Visions board members, left out some very important information. You read his side and the one disgruntled buyer’s side of the story.
Now, I can tell you my side. New Visions CDC had the opportunity to work with Banc of America CDC to find buyers for a project in Sweeting Estates. This project was approved by Fort Lauderdale’s CRA, which stated no restrictions for the area. Fourteen of the 18 houses were built by Banc of America CDC, and our role was to locate buyers for each of the houses. The last four were built by New Visions after the development interest was transferred to New Visions.
The guidelines were no restrictions on income and no deed restrictions with the exception of our lower-income buyers who needed subsidies to qualify for their homes.
We have teachers, city workers, county workers, community organizers and me who wanted so badly to live here to prove that the neighborhood was becoming safer. One of the things we tried to reveal was that the neighborhood was an up-and-coming neighborhood with the potential to come back to being a livable community.
Sweeting Estates is a blighted neighborhood with high crime. One of the ways I got some of our buyers to go into that neighborhood was to tell them that I was buying in that neighborhood and that I would not put them somewhere I did not believe in myself. I believed in the neighborhood so much that I was purchasing there as well. I did not set out to hurt or harm anyone. I left a pretty safe neighborhood in Miramar, where I was very comfortable living for the past 15 years.
In the beginning, I had the option of selling my house, however, after it took longer than normal to build this house and the market took a downturn, I decided to rent because no one was buying. By the time the house was available, the private tenant I had acquired no longer wanted to rent, therefore, I decided to obtain a renter from Section 8, which is subsidizing a part of the rent to help me make my mortgage payment each month and not go into foreclosure.
I believe the article was very unfair and misleading to make it appear that I have done this organization and the community an injustice by moving into the neighborhood. I now live in this community where I work so diligently and I am still adjusting to a new way of living. The article did not mention how I helped Ms. Small because she was a single parent and that she did not qualify for another one of our projects in Roosevelt Gardens under the Broward County Housing Finance Authority’s program. Ms. Small fell out of so many other programs because she was trying to qualify under a subsidized program. After she felt so bad not qualifying for all the other programs, she came to New Visions CDC.
Being the person that I am, I told her about the mixed-income project in Sweeting Estates. I am very sincere in helping people if you come to me for help. Ms.
Small was not a low-income buyer. If she was, she would have qualified for the Roosevelt Gardens house at $219,000. Ms. Small is not a low-income individual and works for a government law enforcement agency. The income limits for a family of three is $34,250. Ms. Small was very happy to become a home owner when she agreed to the price by signing her contract with New Visions CDC. She came into the office every day thanking and hugging me even after she closed on her home. Once the builder (HBR Developers) revealed confidential information from a contract between New Visions CDC and his company, only then did she become vindictive, and asked for $5,000 of her money back or she would go to the newspapers on us.
Harold Davidson, the principal partner of HBR, felt it was his place to tell the buyer how much I paid for my property, which was a difference of $16,000. This information was not privileged to the buyer because it might have been misconstrued. I entered into my contract in 2005 and she entered into her contract two and ½ years later in 2007. Since the properties were entered into contracts at different times, and the homes started at different prices, this would explain the $16,000 difference in the price. Also, we changed contractors, and this was a price increase as well. Both properties were increased by $31,000 across the board. There were no subsidies used from county, federal or state on my purchase.
Mr. Jones is an investigative writer with one of the local African-American newspapers in the area who has been writing upside-down articles in the community and has tried to put a twist on his story to indicate that I have done something against the community. Mr. Jones also insinuated that Dr. Glover’s daughter was given a property. Banc of America signed all of these contracts with the exception of Ms. Small, which was signed by New Visions CDC, however, this property was not given but she qualified for a loan and went through the program just as everyone else did. She even went to the Urban League’s program and came back to us.
I hope that each of you who read this article understands that I would not do anything to hurt or harm New Visions CDC, Mount Bethel Baptist Church, Dr. Glover, my board of directors or most importantly myself and my integrity. My integrity is all I have in this world, and I would like to keep it.
It is apparent that no matter how many people you try to help, there is always one spoiled apple in the whole bunch. I would like to believe that you know me or know of me, that I have worked in this arena for the past 12 years and would not put myself in harm’s way as this article has indicated. I really appreciate your support and look forward to speaking with anyone who may have questions or concerns. Thank you again for all the calls and support I have received.
New Visions CDC
950 NW 11th Ave.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311
Tel: 954-768-0920, ext. 225