Continually-cited Cross Creek Apartments still a problem

Residents of Cross Creek Apartments protesting about problems not being fixed on Aug. 2, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Paul Shelton)
Residents of Cross Creek Apartments protesting about problems not being fixed on Aug. 2, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Paul Shelton)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Tenants at Cross Creek Apartments continue fighting for basic needs that have run the gamut from hot water to structural safety. The complex remains on the city’s repeat offender list for code violations.

KXAN has reported on violations at the Cross Creek Apartments in north Austin since the beginning of 2016. Complaints are still pouring in, prompting City Council Member Greg Casar to get involved. He joined the Cross Creek Apartments Tenant Association and Building and Strengthening Tenant Action (BASTA) to get the owner’s attention and make good on a promise to repair serious building code violations.

People living in the apartments marched through the complex pointing out repairs that have yet to be made Wednesday evening.

Whether years of litigation or tenants rallying together is what it takes, those living at Cross Creek just want a fix.

“I moved in with the promise that it was going to get better,” Stephen Frischmuth said, who moved in three years ago. Instead, “it got significantly worse.”

An expected multi-million dollar renovation never came.

“I went this last weekend, all weekend without hot water and prior to that I spent a month without hot water,” Frischmuth said. “You will see children running all over this place and they deserve better, I deserve better, the tenants who have disabilities and whatnot, they deserve better.”

“I’m committed to working together with my constituents to make sure that Cross Creek is repaired,” Council Member Casar said. “It’s important in cases like this one, where the property owner does not meet the city expectations, for us to hold them accountable and for us to keep working together with the people who live in these buildings, everyday Austinites, to make sure that they are taken care of.”

The owner of the property tells KXAN they’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure the property is safe, an effort they plan to continue daily until all the work is done and city inspections are passed.

A city spokesperson says Austin Code was on site Tuesday and saw active process, including trenches being dug to replace the boiler for hot water.

“We may have some more to do but we’ve come a long way and have worked well with the City and our tenants addressing their needs. We are making good progress,” Lauretta Kennedy-Mulholland, of management company TMG said in an email to KXAN.

When asked his thoughts on those comments, Frischmuth said, “I know that Rome wasn’t built in a day but it also wasn’t built with 8-inch plywood.”

Lauretta Kennedy-Mulholland wrote, “The problems with the property pre-date Cross Creek’s purchase. That is why the City and Cross Creek worked together to acquire the property and start the process of rehabilitation. Cross Creek has taken in significant numbers of formerly homeless and very low income residents as repairs and renovations are completed. Cross Creek management has completed thousands of work orders and repairs to the property, everything from changing tenant’s light bulbs and plunging toilets to repairs to the building. In addition to on-site management, Cross Creek has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on outside contractors and engineers to make sure the property is safe for all who live here. This is a continuous effort and we continue to make great progress.”

Right now, Cross Creek owes the city more than $1.5 million in fees, an amount Kennedy-Mulholland says they plan to dispute in court.

This spring, a judge laid out a deadline of last week to bring the property into compliance. As we wait for the court to check in, the owner says they’ve had success with another one of their properties, “The Palms,” and are aiming for the same at Cross Creek. Both properties are on the city’s repeat offender list.

Back in 2015, KXAN investigators discovered the Austin Tenants’ Council’s Guide to Affordable Housing actually listed several of those properties on the repeat offender list as places to look to rent. At that time, the group said it planned to include a disclaimer for renters to check for health and safety before leasing. Today, six repeat offender properties are still in the affordable housing guide.

The Austin Tenants’ Council has been active in advocating with tenants at Cross Creek since the City of Austin filed suit against the property in 2015. The Tenants’ Council tells KXAN that “the repeat offender list is a reflection of a larger issue in Austin, which is that much of our affordable housing stock is in substandard condition.”

“Affordable housing is a necessary priority in Austin,” said the group’s executive director, Juliana Gonzales. “But the additional challenge we are facing is to ensure that affordable housing is also safe, decent and fair.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify that the Austin Tenants’ Council advocates for safety, decency and fairness within the city’s affordable housing community, not the repeat offender list. We apologize for any confusion.

 

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