At least 30 families from Rosemont Apartments in Oak Valley are now living in temporary housing, with several more expected to join them as repairs continue at the complex, which suffered extensive damage in the powerful February snowstorm.
In July, 87 families received notice of termination of lease due frost damage, including mold, which made homes uninhabitable. These notices were overturned after pressure from the Travis County Commissioners Court. The county then secured funding to provide temporary housing and pay for moving expenses while repairs were being made.
Repairs – involving moldy walls and carpets – are expected to take up to 90 days. After that, residents will be able to return to the complex, the owners said.
Only 46 of 87 families will be placed in long-stay hotels in southeast Austin, but residents said the move process has been frustrating, citing difficulties obtaining moving materials and planning. the moving company as well as hotel rooms that lacked beds or space for some families.
The other 41 families canstay home while repairs are being made. Their leases have not been terminated.
Several residents said in public comments at the Travis County Commissioners’ Tribunal meeting on Tuesday that they were grateful for temporary accommodation, but more needed to be done.
The residents, who formed a tenant council, Voisins de Rosemont, presented a list of more than 50 demands to ease the transition.
The board of directors of Strategic Housing Finance Corp., which owns the southeast Austin complex, last week refused to sign the deal. However, the company has already responded to several of the requests, including hiring a professional relocation service and waiving rent and other charges for families living off-site or in their homes while repairs are being made. .
Claims include the treatment of damage in all units, including mold; ensure that residents have the right to return to their unit and the opportunity to relocate; providing quality temporary housing to displaced families, including adequate beds and rooms and proximity to schools; provide relocation services, such as moving materials, regular transportation and storage units; have safety and security on and off site; provide updates in English and Spanish on repairs and moves; compensate individuals for all related costs, including prorated or waived rent; and ensure better relations with staff and management.
“We care about our tenants and go above and beyond our mission,” said Eddie Karam, member of the company’s board of directors. “It is not our obligation to make sure these people move to another location, to pay all moving expenses, or to have people come back and live there. Our mission is to provide affordable housing. . ”
The Strategic Housing Finance Corp., which is funded almost entirely by tax credit agreements, owns at least 13 other properties in Travis County and reports to the Housing Authority of Travis County, which provides affordable rental housing to residents. .
Several residents continue to urge the county to require the council to sign an agreement with the residents.
Resident Wendy Volcy said Rosemont tenants deserve to be treated with respect.
“To say that you don’t have to and that we should be thankful for the crumbs is callous and disrespectful to us,” Volcy said. “We are thankful that we are not homeless and thankful for what we have received, but it is not enough. We did not put ourselves in this situation. It is not because of a storm of snow; it’s because of long-term neglect over the years. ”
Board Chairman Wilmer Roberts said the board remains committed to preserving and developing affordable housing and vibrant communities. “We want to underscore their desire and intention to remedy the adverse conditions that exist at Rosemont at Oak Valley Apartments quickly but adequately,” said Roberts.
Patrick Howard, executive vice president of Strategic Housing Finance Corp., said he and his staff are working to make the transition as easy and smooth as possible for families.
One of the applications involves hiring a professional relocation services company. CVR Associates was hired to help residents relocate, including securing moving and packing materials, planning the moving company, and finding a temporary place for them with suitable accommodation. Pets are also considered in the process.
The letter of formal notice also requested reimbursement of moving expenses and security deposits and the waiver of the payment of rent.
Howard said residents of Rosemont who have moved permanently will receive refunds for security deposits. July, August and future rents until repairs are complete will also be waived for all families given notice of departure. Affected families who paid the July rent will have a credit applied to their account.
Electricity rebates are also given to families who see increased usage caused by equipment from construction vendors.
Even though hotels offer high-speed internet access, Austin school district administrators told the American-Statesman that students were given Wi-Fi devices and the technology needed to help them succeed.
School leaders also said they provide school buses from hotels to campuses and students are not required to transfer or change campuses due to the situation.
Howard said a number of other inquiries, especially those relating to long-term maintenance issues such as laundry and HVAC issues, as well as complaints about the management company, would be dealt with later. He added that they are unlikely to be met by the time the residents return. Later this year. Meal vouchers will not be provided, he said, citing budget constraints.
County commissioners will take the next two weeks to determine how the county can help residents beyond funding.
“We want residents to know we heard them and we are looking at what the county itself can do,” County Judge Andy Brown told the American-Statesman. “We may have to do more to help families. We’re taking the next two weeks to figure out what we can do.
Resident Kecia Prince, who helps lead the tenant council, said residents remain skeptical, citing developments and a lack of communication. She said signing a deal would help allay concerns and hold everyone accountable.
Officials at Building and Strengthening Tenant Action, an Austin nonprofit that helps tenants, said there was a precedent for reaching a deal. Residents of Mount Carmel Apartments in East Austin, also forced to leave their homes due to damage from the week-long frost, reached an agreement with their management company, Eureka, based in Dallas. It had requests similar to those of the residents of Rosemont.
“We are tired, frustrated and furious,” Prince said. “We won’t give up until we get justice for the residents of Rosemont.”