Dickinson City Council approves fund to help relocate tenants forced out of apartments deemed unsafe

Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Tenants forced out of Dickinson apartment can apply for $1,000 help
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Tenants at the Creekside Apartments were forced to move out amid unsafe conditions. Now, the city passed a resolution that would give residents money to help with the move.

DICKINSON, Texas (KTRK) -- Hundreds of people who live at a Dickinson apartment complex will now receive financial assistance from the city to help them find a new place to live. The city issued an order to vacate due to unsafe conditions.

Tuesday night, Dickinson City Council passed a resolution to approve an agreement with M.I. Lewis Social Service Center to facilitate the funding. People can apply online for $1,000 of relocation assistance. The checks will be distributed later this week. About 98 residents have already applied, and the city is making $185,000 available for this fund. Leaders also said they were leaving the option open to legally go after Excel Property Management.

Some residents told Eyewitness News that they have dealt with mold and sewage issues and have not had hot water for two months.

In September, after inspecting the Creekside Apartments and finding several code violations, the City of Dickinson gave the complex management 60 days to plan to fix things up.

However, two weeks before Christmas, hot water and other issues still need to be fixed. Now, hundreds of people are having to spend money, which many of them say they don't have, to find a safe place to live.

"We have our little - I guess you could call it our - bath water set up," Kresha Burleson, a Creekside Apartments resident, said.

Warming water on her stove for baths has been a part of Burleson's reality for the past six weeks. The beginning of November is the last time she said hot water came out of her faucet, and she feels management at Creekside Apartments doesn't care.

"They go home to hot water. None of them care that we don't have hot water. They just cared if you paid your rent or not," Burleson said.

Inspections done by the city throughout this spring and summer revealed issues at the complex, including raw sewage around several buildings, a lack of working smoke alarms, and structural concerns.

The hot water issue stemmed from a gas leak in a boiler room. David Wallace, a consultant working for the complex's owners, Excel Property Management, said the city is holding up the process.

"Somebody went into a boiler room and, just with a wrench, turned a bolt that created a leak. The building owners and management were able to get that repaired in five seconds," Wallace said.

Dickinson Mayor Sean Skipworth said that is not the case.

"They have characterized it as there was one loose bolt on a boiler. That is not remotely what the issue was. It takes a long period of negligence to get to this point. This is not about a boiler. This is about being negligent in maintaining your property while continuing to demand rent from people," Skipworth said.

Wallace claims the temporary boiler apartment management brought in to solve the hot water issue was cleared for use.

"(The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation) had them on the phone, said 'It's approved. It's self-contained. You can turn that on. You can hook it up.' We submitted that five to six business days ago to the city (and it) still has not been approved," Wallace said.

However, a spokesperson for TDLR, which certifies boilers, told ABC13 that is not true. They said both the first boiler in question and the temporary one the management company brought in are not certified by the state at this point. According to TDLR, the temporary boiler was secondhand and not up to code.

"One of the boilers they tried to use had the serial numbers filed off, and it was not registered. It couldn't be verified to be safe, but they've acted as if the city is the one standing in the way of fixing things, but that is not the case," Skipworth said.

At the end of the day, the people who live in this complex still have no hot water, are dealing with substandard conditions, and are struggling to find another place to live before the first of the year.

"You're looking at a good $2,000 to $2,500 on top of everything else you have going on in life. Who can do that on just a drop of a hat?" Creekside resident, Angie McLeod, asked.

Burleson, a mom of three, said she has yet to find a new place either.

"I still have not found anywhere for my family. The market is up. It is a struggle for all of us. It's not just me," Burleson explained.

Last Thursday, nearly two weeks after the 60-day deadline given by the city, apartment owners submitted a plan to the city to renovate the complex over the next nine months, but for the hundreds of people who live there now, it feels too little too late.

Residents can apply for the funds through Dec. 19. M.I. Lewis, the social services organization in Dickinson, will be taking applications and distributing the assistance money. If approved, the checks will start being given out later this week.