MIAMI (WSVN) - Some apartment residents in Miami grabbed their keys to move back into their homes, one a half years after they were forced out because their building was deemed unsafe.

7News cameras captured a long line outside the apartment building at 5050 NW 7th St., Saturday afternoon.

“I am very happy, because we waited for this moment,” said resident Jose Pico.

Several people in line said the wait to receive the keys to their homes is nothing compared to the 18-month wait after they were initially ordered to vacate overnight.

“It was terrible,” said resident Grace Usich. “We were evacuated when the city came here on August 9, 2021.”

Video from the day when residents where forced to leave showed the deteriorating conditions, such as crumbling concrete and water gathering in the garage area.

“We are old people, and we suffered because a lot we are outside of our home,” said Pico.

Unit owners, many of them older, had to find other places to live.

“We lived for five months in the hotel, and after, we went to live in Hialeah,” said Pico.

“I was staying with a relative, but I was paying also, so I was paying my mortgage, the expenses of the building, the use of storage, the electricity here, [homeowners association],” said Usich.

Eventually, unit owners replaced the entire HOA board.

“We always keep them updated with any kind of work,” said current board member Hiubert Castellon.

They also brought in a brand-new management company.

There were many things; this building wasn’t maintained for many years,” said Natalia Bulnes with Cadisa Inc. “We were able to tackle everything, all of the life safety issues the city of Miami required for us to do.”

Eighty-four residents now have their keys in hand.

With a total of 137 units affected, Bulnes said, there is still work to be done.

“The other units do need some electrical work, some mechanical work, and the city of Miami has offered a program,” she said.

But this is the start of getting everyone back to where they belong: their homes.

“I am very happy, because we waited for this moment,” said Pico.

One owner said she doesn’t believe they will get any money back for the additional rents they paid to live somewhere else that year and a half.

While owners did get receive their keys on Saturday, they may start moving back in starting next week.

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