Apartment families get Christmastime eviction

The Montecito Apartments, 4719 Harmon Ave.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — People typically look forward to deliveries this time of year, but tenants at The Montecito Apartments in North-Central Austin didn’t like the note they received this week. It was an eviction notice for all 50 units, mostly occupied by families. They must be out of their homes by New Year’s Day.

Tenants had all been slowly converted to month-to-month leases and were vulnerable to legal eviction. Raina Williams and her family of four got the news that management wanted everyone out to renovate, but they didn’t like it.

“Merry Christmas and get out by New Years. I was floored,” she said. “How could they do this to so many people at Christmas? Children, we have so many children in this complex.”

Williams, her two daughters, son-in-law and baby granddaughter will have to find a new home, and may have to split up.

People living at The Montecito Apartments on Harmon Avenue must be out of their homes by the end of the year.
People living at The Montecito Apartments on Harmon Avenue must be out of their homes by the end of the year.

With the occupancy rate in Austin sitting at 95 percent and rents rising as much as 8 percent each year in Austin, finding something in the $600 range they pay now will be a tough match. The options seem to be move further out, where bus route availability may figure in, or stay in the Interstate 35/Airport Boulevard area and pay more.

“I actually work closer in town so I can’t move farther out,” said Arakai Denson. “There’s really not any options I have. Looks like I’m going to have to do some bullet biting.”

The Austin Tenants Council says management at The Montecito Apartments followed the law, even if the timing seems Grinch-like.

“Unfortunately there aren’t a whole lot of options, especially at this time of year,” said Kenesha Phoenix, director of the Fair Housing Department. “With occupancy so high as it is in Austin, it will be very difficult for people to find a place to live that quickly.”

Williams says she is willing to pay more, but keeping the family together — including their 12-year-old dog — will be difficult. Johnny weighs a stout 70 pounds and Williams doesn’t know if her pooch will make the weight limit anywhere else.

As for the holidays, she says ruefully, “I wouldn’t even have put up a tree. There’ll be no presents under the tree this year, all my money has to go to moving.”

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