Residents of Rosemont at Oak Valley, an affordable complex owned by an LLC formed by the Strategic Housing Finance Corporation and located at 2800 Collins Creek Drive, received notices from property manager Capstone Real Estate Services July 2 ordering them to vacate their units by the end of the month. Capstone said damages from the Winter Storm Uri required extensive renovation before the affected units would be considered habitable.
In a July 7 statement, HATC Executive Director Patrick Howard said needed repairs included replacing drywall, flooring and cracked pipes.
"At this point, the safety and well-being of our residents is of upmost [sic] importance," Howard wrote in the statement. "We understand the situation and burden this will put so many families of Rosemont at Oak Valley in, however we must complete these repairs correctly while maintaining the safety and well-being of all involved."
However, affected residents pushed back, saying that many of the damages cited by Capstone had long been an issue, and that the property manager was taking using the storm as an excuse to break leases without repercussions. A coalition of residents submitted a letter to Capstone and HATC demanding solutions that would not force them to relocate and shoulder their own moving expenses—including focusing on repairs of vacant, half-finished units at Rosemont where residents would be relocated while provided hotel rooms and other solutions in the meantime.
Margaret Gomez, Travis County Commissioner for Precinct Four, and county Judge Andy Brown on July 7 announced their intention to assist the evicted residents, and invited HATC and Capstone to brief commissioners at their July 13 meeting.
Rosemont residents also called into the meeting, including April Combs, who said is the primary caretaker for disabled son and another disabled individual, and has been out of work due to her own disability. She said the cost of moving if her eviction were upheld would be prohibitive, and that other affordably priced units in the area were unavailable.
"I don't have the money to move," Combs said. "I've called around at quite a few other apartments and there's nothing available [that we can afford]. I've even looked at places outside of Austin, and I still can't afford that."
Residents also said that site maintenance had long ignored health and safety issues such as mold and mildew in units when complaints were filed, even prior to Capstone's management of the property, which began in March.
"It sounds like there were issues that have been going on for some time," Howard acknowledged following the residents' testimony. "This is something that we need to continue to work on as an organization to ensure that residents have their concerns are being heard . . . that's something that we as owners need to ensure that we do."
Ultimately, commissioners voted unanimously to support the stated demands of residents, and asked HATC staff to return to court with a plan to address the issues at Rosemont while allowing residents to stay put for the time being, and offering them county funds for relocation costs if needed.