Tenants of two multifamily complexes that Applesway Investment Group lost through foreclosure over the past year are demanding action, alleging they are facing abusive evictions and uninhabitable conditions.
Boarded-up windows can be seen at The Redford in Houston from Google Street View.
Fifteen tenants of The Redford and Cabo San Lucas apartment complexes marched to the Houston Housing Authority on Monday morning, and more have signed a letter of demands, said Taylor Laredo, community navigator for the Houston office of Texas Housers, a low-income housing information service.
The tenants have formed a group called the Southeast Tenant Information Organization that aims to improve their living situation and stop evictions, he said.
“These apartments are in some of the worst conditions,” Laredo said. “There are giant, gaping holes in the ceiling, insulation falling out, there are rats and roaches there [and] nonfunctioning appliances like toilets.”
In a release, the group said tenants of the two buildings are “suffering in deplorable living conditions” and receiving mass improper evictions after allegedly being placed there by the Houston Housing Authority and collaborating Houston-area homelessness service providers.
The Houston Housing Authority does not own or manage either complex and it is up to the discretion of HHA clients where to use housing vouchers, HHA said. Even so, HHA issued a statement saying it is “deeply concerned” about the conditions reported.
“[We] are committed to assisting our clients to ensure their units are inspected and meet the quality standard of habitable and sanitary conditions,” HHA said in the statement.
A Houston Housing Authority staff member came out to speak to the tenants on Monday morning and agreed to have a follow-up meeting, Laredo said.
Arbor Realty Trust, the lender on the $229M loan secured by the properties, previously confirmed it sold the properties to New York-based Fundamental Partners, which didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story. The Redford is a Class-B complex with 856 units in southeast Houston, according to the Harris Central Appraisal District.
Applesway also owned Cabo San Lucas until it was sold at an August foreclosure auction. The lender for the $62.5M loan for that property, Ellington Management Group, previously declined to comment on the sale and again declined to comment Monday. Cabo San Lucas is a Class-E complex with 1,062 units also in southeast Houston, set across the Gulf Freeway from The Redford.
Texas Housers regularly monitors court eviction dockets and saw an abnormally large number of evictions at Cabo San Lucas, with 120 filed in July, Laredo said. The Redford also filed about 30 cases that month and filed numerous evictions in previous months as well, he said.
The Houston Housing Authority has already taken action in regard to wrongful evictions, it said.
“The HHA team has been working diligently to assist affected families by re-housing them to dignified and secure living arrangements, prioritizing their health, safety, and well-being,” the statement says. “HHA remains committed to its clients and will continue to work diligently to mitigate any wrongful evictions and remove them from unacceptable living arrangements. Our primary focus is on finding housing solutions that benefit both our clients and the communities we serve.”
Natishia Myles was placed at The Redford over two years ago through Houston’s Rapid Re-housing program, she told Bisnow. Rapid Re-housing is a program that provides short-term rental assistance for homeless people without preconditions like employment, income, absence of criminal record or sobriety.
That program was only supposed to last a year, and now Myles said she feels she is in limbo due to a lack of communication from her case manager and complex management. Myles fought off one eviction attempt, she said, but she has no means to move out of what she called a mold-infested apartment. Myles said she has been a victim of crime multiple times during her stay at The Redford, including being held at knifepoint while walking to check the mail and having her unit broken into.
The Southeast Tenant Information Organization is also representing people who have been placed at the two complexes through The Way Home housing network, according to a news release.
In its list of demands, the organization said it hoped to work toward sustainable solutions using the city’s housing programs.
“We know that this program has been praised nationally, and we ask ourselves: is eviction and homelessness the result you want to see for dozens of formerly homeless tenants housed at the same apartment complexes through your network?” the group said in its release.
“However, being intentionally placed in The Redford Apartments and Cabo San Lucas Apartments — known as some of the most dangerous and inhabitable apartment complexes in the city of Houston— has greatly hindered our ability to use these housing resources to thrive and pursue better lives and outcomes for ourselves and our families.”
“The place is garbage,” Myles said of The Redford. “People will ask you, ‘Why haven’t you moved?’ Well, if I could do all of that, I wouldn’t have been here in the first place.”
UPDATE, OCT. 10, 9:25 A.M. CT: This article has been updated to include information from Houston Housing Authority that it issues housing vouchers and does not place clients in particular properties.