Tenants continue living in 'death trap' year after city's apt. task force created, Houstonians say

Courtney Carpenter Image
Monday, September 25, 2023
NW Houstonians surprised city's apt. task force says progress was made
Houston's apartment task force was created to help tenants with major issues, but a year later, some Houstonians say they're still living in filth.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Last July, people living at an east Houston apartment complex went before the city council to ask for help dealing with major issues, including rats, overflowing trash, and water problems.

Three days later, Mayor Sylvester Turner visited the complex and announced the creation of a task force to address issues like these at apartments across the city.

Since the start of this task force, multiple city departments have been meeting on a weekly basis to address issues at the most complained about complexes.

ABC13 went to apartments where a lot of those complaints have been made to see if people who live there can tell a difference.

"I live in a death trap. My breaker box sparks and smokes when my unit tries to come on," Sandra Mims, a resident of the Villa Nueva Apartments in northwest Houston, said.

"Frustrated? We are. Mad? We are. Like, it's no lie we're not living good," Sadea McDowell, another Villa Nueva resident, said.

Through this ABC13 Renters' Rights segment, Eyewitness News heard from a lot of Houstonians who are "not living good."

The city said it wanted to change this and created a task force a little over a year ago.

But, has the task force actually made any changes?

"Are these things happening? Are we seeing progress? And when we don't, we see citations being issued. Sometimes we are going out there every single day, sometimes weekly," Walter Hambrick, deputy chief of staff and chair of the multifamily task force, said.

Hambrick said since the task force started, they have entered into voluntary compliance agreements with two complexes that were considered habitual bad actors in hopes of turning them around.

Eyewitness News wanted to know what complexes they've helped so far. They wouldn't say. So, ABC13 went through 311 hotline records to find out ourselves.

In the six months after the task force was created, ABC13 found the complex that had the most complaints in 2022, the Villa Nueva Apartments on West Gulf Bank, has racked up even more complaints.

"Everybody has complained to the city," Darian Riley, a longtime resident of the Villa Nueva apartments, explained.

Mims said she's heard about the task force but hasn't seen it bear fruit.

RELATED: The Redford Apartments in SE Houston inspected after multiple deaths in 2022, officials say

"It's something to make him look good because I don't see anything enforced. If you started a task force last year, something should have been enforced by this time. Point blank, period," Mims said.

Over at the Sterlingshire Apartments on the northeast side of Houston, complaints have gone down since the start of the task force.

Some residents said they see change.

"It's been a whole lot better than it used to be," Opel Kelley, a resident, said.

But, some don't see the change. Sterlingshire resident Daz Mashay Hudson said she was surprised to know there has been a downturn in complaints.

"I am (surprised) because they don't do nothing. All they try to do is kick people out when they do complain," Hudson said.

Hambrick said addressing apartment issues is one of the highest priorities of the administration and wants complexes to know they are taking this seriously.

"It's not a freebie. It's not a, 'Do what you want.' It's a matter of time until we get to you, and the way we get to you the fastest is if we continue to get those reports from citizens," Hambrick said.

Hambrick went on to say that no matter what price range your apartment is in, you should be getting what your lease states, and if you are not, you should report it to 311.

He added they don't look at status or immigration when looking through the 311 reports.

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