Archive for the ‘Apartments’ Category

DMN Editorial: HUD props up an apartment complex failing its tenants

March 17, 2010
The following editorial follows up on an article written by the Dallas Morning News on Sunday.  I also wrote about the same article. This is such an important issue, I am going to print the entire editorial in its entirety. 
The one thing I question is if any landlord has ever “walked away” from a building because of the pressure from HUD or any other public entity. I am very curious to know the answer.
Next, the editorial.
Editorial: HUD props up an apartment complex failing its tenants
  Dallas Morning News 06:24 PM CDT on Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Harvard-educated Rene Campos Jr. made a fortune by buying, rehabilitating and reselling distressed private apartment properties. Today, at 46, he lives in a million-dollar University Park home, owns a $4 million vacation property in Hawaii, plays polo, rides a custom motorcycle and drives a Land Rover.
Nothing wrong with being wealthy.

The problem is whether Campos and his investment company, Eureka Holdings, are living up to his self-described “mantra”: “We provide clean, safe, affordable housing for people.”

Eureka’s tenants at the Ridgecrest Terrace apartments in west Oak Cliff might beg to differ. Despite a constant stream of federal rent subsidies to the complex – including $1.5 million from the latest stimulus package – they describe a hellish swirl of drug activity, mold and mildew simply painted over, carpet so filthy it causes blackened feet and rashes, water-leak stains on walls.

Our issue isn’t just with Campos, a guy apparently more concerned with maximizing income by holding down expenses than with fulfilling housing commitments. It’s also with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which lets him get away with it.

Campos’ stimulus windfall was part of a $2 billion HUD effort to ensure that HUD-contracted landlords received a full year of rent subsidy payments. Ridgecrest Terrace was one of 14 Dallas County properties – nine in southern Dallas – to benefit. This, despite a record of failed HUD property inspections (later overturned on appeal), a city lawsuit to force repairs of substandard conditions (later settled) and the property’s failure to file audited financial statements on time (leading to a $3,000 fine).

If Campos is a slumlord, he’s giving other slumlords a bad name. HUD’s inability to separate worthy property owners from the chaff confirms criticisms of the $787 billion stimulus as larded with fraud and waste.

HUD’s response to this newspaper’s Steve McGonigle, whose research and reporting produced the Ridgecrest Terrace revelations, was dispiriting. A spokesman in Washington tried to explain the “delicate balance” between holding landlords accountable and making sure even the poor had decent housing. HUD supervisors locally and in Washington chose to not respond.

Campos tried to explain his side by blaming city vendettas for many of his problems at Ridgecrest Terrace.

Caught in the middle, of course, are the tenants, who just want that “clean, safe, affordable housing.” Landlords have the ultimate hammer, which is walking away if HUD leans on them too hard. With so much of southern Dallas’ housing stock tied up in complexes like Ridgecrest Terrace, tossing families into the street is a black eye HUD and the city don’t need.

Neither is looking away while people with few other options live in squalor.
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Owner of Oak Cliff Apartment Complex Sees Nothing Wrong with Mold, Drug Baggies, and Unhealthy Apartments

March 14, 2010
This article is in today’s Dallas Morning News. Read for yourself.
The blog Katy’s Exposure also says what I already know, having lived in an apartment with mold.

And regarding the skin rashes from the carpet, that is from the mold coming from the vents.

The reasoning that such conditions are OK just because it’s Section 8 housing has nothing to do with the interior quality in the apartments. Nobody is asking the owner to put a fountain or media room in the middle of the complex. You take the government money to provide safe housing for lower-income people.  That means the outside environment should be safe as well as the inside.  In addition to mold, I have lived places with termites, roaches pouring out of crevices, rats, mice, and other issues.  I was blessed to be able to move; everyone is not. 
This article disgusts me. Poor people deserve to live without mold, drug baggies all over, and leaking walls. This owner should be ashamed of himself, but obviously he is not.

This is a front page article in the Sunday edition of the Dallas Morning News; it doesn’t get much bigger than that. Hopefully some elected official reads this article and does something about it. It’s obvious that the owner could care less.

UPDATE: Frisco City Council Approves Affordable Housing Support

February 17, 2010

Last night, Frisco City Council voted 4-1 to support developer applications for affordable housing within the city.  This is a follow-up to the story I wrote about a few days ago.

The projects still have be be approved for tax-credits by the State’s housing agency.

Low-Income People can Live in Frisco, too

February 12, 2010

The fantastic Candy Evans at D Magazine’s Dallas Dirt brings us a story about opposition to a mixed-income housing development in Frisco because some of the residents will use Section 8 vouchers.

Like Candy writes, “working folks need to live somewhere and Frisco businesses complain they can’t find enough employees who want to drive in from more affordable areas.”   Stacy Brown (Frisco’s Housing and Grants administrator) states in the clip, “to grow with our businesses, we need those workers. We need them to be able to come here. Otherwise, we can’t staff our restaurants, hotels, retail.”

I couldn’t agree with them more.

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcdfw.com/video.

In addition, it’s not a low-income housing community.  It’s mixed income with some of the residents using Section 8 vouchers. 

For the gentleman in opposition in the news clip: the people that you’re so scared of are already in the city.  There the ones working in the Target and other stores near Stonebriar. Keep worrying about pre-conceived fears you’ve read about, your precious suburb will be just fine.  However, I think this might be more of a threat to your property values in Frisco.

City Officials Work Hard and Editor doesn’t Notice

August 3, 2009

Over the weekend, a writer at the Dallas Morning News wrote an editorial titled Life at Pleasant Grove complex is only barely so. It talked about the Barclay Square apartments in Pleasant Grove and suggests that no one has lifted a finger to help the residents that have suffered from air conditioning issues over the summer.

The real title of this blog post should be entitled No one cares, or No One cares to do Research.

This phrase, written by the editor, was quite interesting:

Even worse, your kids are so miserable they can’t sleep, the refrigerator keeps nothing cool, and all you get are wish-we-could-helps from the state, the city and your friends living somewhere the power actually works.

I don’t know if the writer of this of this editorial has read his own paper, or maybe has access to this interesting search engine called Google (all the cool people are using it). A cursory search on would find that city officials have been intensively involved in addressing the needs of the tenants in that complex.

This issue was on everyone’s mind before it made the news, though most of the coverage was appreciated. Assistant City Manager Forest Turner, Code Compliance Director Joey Zapata, Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, and many others have put countless days into this issue. In fact, after personally inspecting the complex Forest and Joey ordered every unit be inspected for the appropriate temperature. Think about the number of inspectors that have to be involved to check the air and safety in 141 units in one morning. Joey, Forest, and other city employees were at the complex every single day over the course of weeks. This information could have been uncovered with one phone call. In fact, the writer of the editorial wouldn’t even have to dial 9, since it had been covered extensively by the Morning News’ own writers.

While it wasn’t highly publicized and only one news outlet covered the story, Caraway called a town hall meeting with translators to provide an outlet for residents to air grievances. When have you ever heard an elected official getting involved in such as issue, to the point where he or she made the management face the residents?

The tough part is that it can be days or weeks before anyone contacts the city about such issues. Many tenants don’t know that such complaints can be anonymously filed, or are scared to report such issues. I have suggested that apartment complex owners be required to post the city contact numbers so these issues can be addressed as soon as they arise.

For air conditioning issues, Dallas citizens should call 311 which will create the request and route it to city code inspectors. The city responds within 24 hours to air conditioning issues.

That being said, I have no love for the landlord of Barclay Square. Readers of Dallas Progress know that I have been writing about slumlord apartment owners since this blog began publishing. I think the owners realized that the issues must be fixed or the heat was going to be turned up in the form of more fines and a city lawsuit.

Per city ordinance, units that are eighty-five degrees or hotter must have a temporary air conditioning unit installed. Such action was required at Barclay Square, and from what I heard this was not welcomed by the owners of the complex.

While the Barclay Square tenants did not win in court, their lawyer was pleased that the issues were being addressed by city officials.

The DMN has been the source of some fine writing the past couple of years, especially some of the coverage within the North/South Project. Everyone’s bound to miss the mark every now and then, even yours truly as we write and search for the truth. But this story was everywhere. You would have to be under a rock or totally detached from the news cycle to not know that many people were working on this issue.

We don’t expect every news article to have a city-approved number of attaboys, but I would ask that some level of research be undertaken before the assigned editor throws everyone under the bus.

My Current Take on Southwest Center Mall

June 29, 2009

A lot has been written lately about Southwest Center Mall. A $120,000 study has been commissioned and presented. Shawn Williams wrote an article for DMagazine. Numerous editorials from various newspapers have been published. I’m not sure if people are going to like what I like to say about the mall, but that’s life.

I’ve been writing about the mall since I started Dallas Progress.

One thing that has to be done, no matter whose feathers get ruffled, is to face facts about the area around the mall. The area around the mall is in shambles.

I don’t feel safe in this area; that is why I have decided to move my family from this neighborhood. The main reason that stores have left is one of the same reasons that I am leaving. All of the writing, trying to expose various issues in this neighborhood, has been for naught. We still don’t get the proper help over here.

Some may feel that I am giving up on this area. All I can say is that I lived it.

All of the police attention in this area goes to the neighborhood east of 67 which includes the Chaucer Place neighborhood. Of course, that is inside the South Central Police division which is led by the magnificent Deputy Chief Sherryl Scott. The west side of 67 (Marvin D Love Freeway) is a different police division.

The only time we had any type of consistent patrols was when Pastor Rickie Rush put together an informal patrol of hundreds of men and dozens of vehicles from IBOC Church. They were the best security we ever had in this area.

While we spent $120,000 for the study of the mall, my buddy Shawn Williams gave you a lot of similar insight for the $5 cost of DMagazine. The study does go into more depth, but the basic premise is the same.

My take is a little different. I feel that putting a lot of money into the mall, and only the mall, is a mistake. When you look at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) study (warning: this is a 15MB PDF so it may take time to download), it draws comparisons to Prestonwood Mall. I can understand that; but what it shows is that the two areas are starkly different in terms of income, worker traffic, and spending power. Instead of the city putting $50+ million (as it has been suggested) into one shopping mall, I would rather it gets spread through a bunch of small centers all over southern Dallas.

With respect to Southwest Center Mall, several opportunities were missed. We know that the retail moved to Cedar Hill. It moved there because the city didn’t support former Councilman James Fantroy’s attempts to revitalize the mall between 2003-2006. For example, he tried to put a new Target and a movie theater in and around the vacant JC Penney space to jumpstart redevelopment but the numbers wouldn’t work without city help. As a result, Inland Southwest began to develop a new center at Hampton & Wheatland which includes the Target store that opened in March of 2008.

Some have suggested that we should consider turning Southwest Center Mall into an outlet mall. However, our chance at the outlet mall opportunity has come and gone. In the past year,Grand Prairie snagged an outlet mall that will be next to I20 & 360 owned by Prime Outlets (the same owner as the one in San Marcos), and another got announced for another city farther north (Irving, I think).

You will never get the income parameters you need to bring the stores that you want until you solve the number one problem around the mall. Again, it goes back to neighborhood safety. You have to start the revitalization by tearing down of some of the apartment complexes in the area.

All of the good businesses are leaving the Mall area, most of the reason is that the business owners and potential customers are constantly robbed and assaulted by criminals in the area. As an example of the issues around here, Pizza Hut won’t even deliver to apartment complexes in our neighborhood.

Some apartment operators work to maintain their properties, keep gates in working order, and make sure that they don’t house criminals. Many do not.

One way these thugs get around background checks is to date a female with a decent job and get the apartment in her name. Then, the thug moves in and here comes the crime. The girl then is scared to kick him out because she has been threatened to keep quiet, and the apartment complex does nothing about it. This happens more than you think.

Some of the worst offenders in the area are below. The good tenants are held hostage in the complexes by the thugs and crime element that certain owners refuse to eradicate.

(the crime numbers for 2009 are from January 1st-June 29th)

  • Whispering Hollow – 6910 S Cockrell Hill Road (100 crimes in 2008, 52 in 2009). Owners are based out of California.
  • Redbird Trails – 3636 W Red Bird – again, the owners are based in California. There is always a line of cars outside the gates because they are always broken. Usually a lot of people walking in and out. You can see the drug traffic.
  • Arborstone – 6500 S Cockrell Hill Rd (58 crimes in 2008, 26 in 2009). Check out this stellar review from apartment ratings.com:

I wouldn’t recommend this place to my worst enemy. First off, there is always trash and broken bottles everywhere. People sit outside and drink beer and smoke weed and nobody does anything. Maintenance doesn’t fix a thing.

They will fix the easiest thing that needs to be fixed and leave the other things broke.

The security guards are a joke. They had some really bad ones before that just flirted and hung out, but now they have “invisible” ones that you never see. Oh, except from when they are sleep in their cars. The office staff are not helpful at all, the only one worth something is Deon who works on the weekends. The manager is mean and could care less about the residents. They can’t answer your questions, you have to keep calling to get any help, they don’t listen to you, but they are quick to put a notice on your door about the smallest fees like a $2.00 fee. I am writing a formal complaint to the owners.

People say they were improving because they evicted some of the drugs dealers here, but what about the other things. The crazy man who walks around and harasses the women in building 11 and 10 whenever he hasn’t taken his pills. The random gunshots. The half man/woman hooker that does its business out of the empty apartments. You mean to tell me I know all this and the office staff doesn’t. So sad. I cannot wait until my lease is up so I can move

Other complexes should also be considered. A check of the crime records or apartment reviews will show similar reports. They include:

  • Park Village -7575 S. Westmoreland – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Harbors – 7550 S. Westmoreland – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Cielo Ranch – 3829 Gannon Lane – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Broadmoor – 3900 Investor Dr – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Brookfield Apts – 4060 Preferred Pl -Dallas, TX 75237

Add in the motels along I-20, and it adds up to a recipe for disaster if left unchecked.

The model for this area should be based on what was done along Skillman. Yes there is a TIF called Skillman Corridor, but most of the developments received no TIF money. In fact, the only major development that received funding was the Lake Highlands Town Center ($23 million for a $350 million development). The total amount of non-TIF related development in this area: $300 million.

Retail developers will return once they see strong signs that the area is changing. Until then, we’ll be writing these types of articles and blog posts for years to come.

Mercantile Place Grand Opening

April 17, 2009

Tonight, I got to attend the official grand opening for the Mercantile Place.

Mercantile Place actually consists of three buildings: Wilson Place, The Merc, and Element. The opening was for The Merc and Element.

The Element is a brand-new building, and the Merc is the fully restored and updated Mercantile National Bank Building. The Merc was once the largest building west of the Mississippi River for some time. This is the building with the multicolored spire which was recently lit for the first time in years.

I found our tour guide to be extremely knowledgeable of the history of The Merc. I had to leave before I got to check out the Merc’s vault, but I did get to see some amazing spaces.

I focused more on the views than on the inside of units. I will tell you that the finishes were top-notch (marble, granite, the works), and units featured Viking stoves and Bosch washers and dryers in each unit. The pictures here include the last penthouse in the Merc building which was recently leased. The cost: $6,300 per month. Rent for other units start from $1,299, which is reasonable for downtown in any city.

Check out the pics.

More Tax-Credit Apartments?

February 16, 2009

Now that the moratorium has been lifted on tax-credit applications in Dallas, the floodgates are starting to open. The City Council is now considering applications for 13 such complexes.

I know there are different types of units; I do support single room occupancy (SRO) units in moderation as a part of the solution to address homelessness in Dallas. I also generally support senior housing units as long as services for the residents are being provided.

I have the biggest problem with tax-credit apartments that are not focused on a specific niche of residents. Some are even marketed as single-family home rental developments.

The oldest tax-credit apartment complexes have created a glut of units in some neighborhoods. On top of that, many of the newer tax-credit (non-senior) complexes have occupancy rates of 90% or less. That should tell you that we have enough units in certain areas.

I hope that any tax-credit projects that get approved have comprehensive security plans in place. In addition, new tax-credit complexes should be based on tearing down old units and replacing them with new units, and weeding out the thugs as residents are transitioned to newer places.

Some of the highest numbers of crime in Dallas can be found in the oldest tax-credit complexes. It’s not because DPD isn’t working as hard as they can; it’s because a lot of the owners are comfortable with taking their guaranteed rent and not investing in their property in terms of physical structure or safety.

Here are some examples of the oldest tax-credit complexes in Dallas, based on when the complexes joined the tax-credit system.

Apartment Complex Name – Address – (date joined system / date built)
Red Bird Trails 3636 W. Red Bird Lane (1992 / 1985)
Woodhollow 4424 Woodhollow Drive (1992 / 1970)
Surrey Row 7272 Marvin D Love Freeway (1989 / 1988 )
Diamond Creek – 3402 S. Buckner ( 1992 / 1985)
Crestridge Apartments – 6417 Ridgecrest Road ( 1991 / 1985)
Manor on the Park – 3122 Park Lane (1990 / 1965 )

If apartments are to be built in southern Dallas, they should be market-rate apartment complexes. As I talk to developers within my role as a plan commissioner, I try to hammer this point home. Living in such a complex, I can tell you that our complex is fairly safe but we are held hostage in some ways by the other complexes in the area. We are looked at as good pickings because we are perceived as being more affluent than other people in the area.

I understand that some complexes may have a percentage of lower-income units, and I have no problem with that as long as it’s part of a bigger plan. But I do not support arbitrarily dropping hundreds more units into areas that are already saturated with such complexes. Enough is enough.

New Apartment Safety Ordinance Approved

January 14, 2009

I have been writing about needs to increase apartment safety since I started Dallas Progress. This ordinance has been worked on for months.

Thanks to Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Elba Garcia, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Caraway, and the rest of the Public Safety Committee for making sure this ordinance got to Council.

I also thank Deputy Chief Brian Harvey and Lt. Keith Allen for their hard work, creativity, and leadership. I thank them for using some of my ideas in crafting the program. Among other things, the ordinance calls for required security, monitoring, lawsuits, and shutting down apartment complexes.

I also thought some of the editorials written in the last week or so targeting certain complexes were ill-targeted. Before Dwaine got to Council, little or nothing was said about apartment complex safety in southern Dallas. Dwaine has been pounding the table about apartments at every public safety meeting and almost every week at the horseshoe, down to asking about specific complexes. The result is this ordinance.

Most of the things that have called for in last week’s newspaper editorials are already on the way, as mentioned above.

Again, thanks to all that are responsible for this ordinance coming to pass. Now the City has more tools to rid our city of slumlords that ignore major issues on their properties.

DPD Officer Shot

January 6, 2009

Please pray as a Dallas Police officer has been shot and is in grave condition at Baylor Hospital. The name has not been officially released at this time but it is a gang unit officer. It happened at the Oakwood Apartments on Ledbetter near I-45.