AUSTIN, Texas – October 16, 2012 – More than 150 days after a walkway collapse forced dozens of families from their homes, residents of Wood Ridge Apartments have filed a series of lawsuits against the property’s owner for forcing them to live in unhealthy and unsafe conditions. The lawsuits come after five months of code violations, city meetings, and fines have failed to bring any repairs to the complex.
Represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) and the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), the residents argue that there are serious health and safety risks at the complex, including mold issues, bed bug and termite infestations, and exposed electrical wiring. Residents are asking a Travis County court to reduce their rent until much-needed repairs are made.
“Low-income Austinites have the right to safe and affordable housing,” said TRLA attorney Veronica Reyes. “Wood Ridge residents have been demanding these repairs for months but nothing is being done.”
Wood Ridge residents are turning to the legal system after hoping that the City of Austin’s Building and Standards Commission would hold owners and managers accountable for the conditions at the complex. While the Commission has met five times to discuss the problems and levied numerous fines on the property’s owner, conditions have not improved.
According to TRLA, the situation at Wood Ridge is indicative of a larger problem facing the city – one in which slumlords are allowed to operate low-income communities unchecked, putting the health and safety of residents at risk. In a similar situation, last week dangerous conditions led to the temporary displacement of sixteen families at the Las Palmas Apartments in south Austin.
Added Reyes, “The system isn’t working. Low-income residences should not be deteriorating to these extremes in the first place. When residents complain, property owners and the city look the other way, make excuses about the lack of funds or staff, or levy fines that don’t change anything. If the City of Austin truly cares about low-income residents, it needs to hold slumlords accountable before someone gets seriously hurt.”
A copy of the legal documents and other related materials regarding this case can be found online at www.trla.org/press/woodridge.
Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free civil legal services to low-income and disadvantaged clients in a 68-county service area. TRLA’s mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency, safety and stability of low-income Texans by providing high-quality civil legal assistance and related educational services.