AUSTIN, Texas — It’s been seven months since February’s deadly freeze and the damage remains.
While most people have returned to their regular lives, there are hundreds still feeling the effects. Families are struggling as leaders continue learning from the winter storm.
There are many apartment complexes dealing with damages and residents still living in temporary housing, like Kecia Prince. For two months, she’s called a hotel room at the Residence Inn home. She was forced to move out of her apartment because of water damage and mold.
“It’s taken a toll, it’s taken a toll,” Prince said.
Property management told her and nearly 90 other residents, her unit was uninhabitable because of storm damages back in July.
“My place is supposed to be completely demoed,” she said.
Renters and housing advocates gave city and county leaders a tour of the many repair issues at their Austin apartment complex. One of those leaders is Travis County Commissioner Ann Howard.
“We need to fix this situation, this is not fair to these families,” Howard said. “Now it’s been brought to light and we need to fix it and not let this happen again.”
Rosemont at Oak Valley is just one of numerous apartment complexes still dealing with damages in the Austin area.
“We always encourage everyone to call 311,” Daniel Word, assistant director for the Austin Code Department said.
The agency reports they responded to 792 cases related to the storm. There are 48 cases still active.
“We’ll certainly take this experience and remember it going forward in terms of how we can quickly adapt our department to respond to these types of crisis situations,” he said.
The department is currently working on implementing a new resolution to enforce mold through training, working with industry professionals, and outfitting officers with moisture meters. The department will first pilot the program and implement it in phases to see how well it works and if changes are needed.
“I think that will help guide us, um, to alert us to situations where repairs are not being done as well as they should be,” Word said.
Meanwhile, BASTA is working with Rosemont tenants to repair what they say is a “long history of neglect.”
“It’s really frustrating for people because they’ve uprooted their life,” Gabby Garcia with BASTA said.
The Strategic Housing Finance Corporation, an entity of the county, owns Rosemont at Oak Valley. The tenant’s association has been fighting with the owners for months to get them to sign an agreement promising a right to return, rent reimbursement and property improvements.
BASTA and tenants are hoping county commissioners will support Rosemont’s resolution and recommendations to change the SHFC to change their bylaws to include more rights for renters.
“Everybody needs to wake up and look at property they’re managing and make sure they’re doing it right,” Howard said.
Prince just found out she will have to move to another hotel at the end of September if her apartment isn’t finished, so the road to recovery is far from over.
“I feel like we have some kindergarteners in charge of us, and they’re in romper room, while we’re in hell,” she said.