SA apartment tenants seek shelter at nearby motel amid heat

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Debra Watts took only the bare necessities when she left her home at Seven Oaks Apartments to stay at a nearby Motel 6.

Her beloved dog, Baby, her medication and a few dresses were among the few items that made the cut.

Watts, 59, is one of several Seven Oaks tenants staying at the motel due to what they consider to be inhumane living conditions. Watts has been there for a week and a half due to a broken air conditioning unit in his apartment while San Antonio has experienced a series of high temperatures.

“Since we’ve been in this situation, we’ve become like family,” Watts said. “We are getting closer to each other”

District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval used campaign funds to pay for 15 motel rooms for five days so Seven Oaks tenants without air conditioning could have housing while their units were repaired. The city and county funded a few more days for those still awaiting repairs.

On Friday, 19 motel rooms for tenants were paid for through Monday, according to Andrew Solano, Sandoval’s chief of staff.

Residents spoke of their experiences with broken air conditioning, water leaks, mold and other issues that many say have gone unresolved in months.

They joined with representatives from the Texas Organizing Project last month to lobby for apartment repairs and to protest evictions. They demanded changes from the owner, Achieve Investment Group, and asked Mayor Ron Nirenberg for help.

Colin Strother, consultant for Achieve Properties, said the company is doing its best to address tenant concerns as quickly as possible.

Strother said the company is creating a new tenant hotline to add another way for tenants to report issues and will conduct individual assessments on Monday and Tuesday to get a list of any unit deficiencies.

There are currently four open work order requests for air conditioning units, Strother said. Two units were being repaired on Friday, with the other two expected to be fully replaced next week.

Sandoval spent Friday morning and early afternoon meeting with tenants of the Seven Oaks apartments – first accompanying San Antonio code enforcement officers as they inspected several units in the complex on the northwest side, then heading to the motel parking lot to help distribute San Antonio Food Bank meals to residents. .

“I almost wish we had gotten involved sooner,” Sandoval said. “No one deserves to live in these conditions and certainly not for as long as they do.”

Mike Shannon, director of the city’s developmental services department, said complaints about Seven Oaks started coming in last month.

The complex has 254 units of which 140 are occupied. Code enforcement officers inspected about a quarter of occupied units, city public relations officer Ximena Copa-Wiggins said.

They issued 22 citations earlier this month to the resort for issues including broken air conditioning units, lack of hot water and dumpster maintenance issues.

When code enforcement officers checked 15 of the units on Friday, five still had violations. Repairs had been made to three units and seven units could not be re-inspected because tenants were not present to let officers in. Four additional apartments were also inspected due to new complaints.

Copa-Wiggins said one of the new units inspected on Friday had a broken air conditioning unit, but parts to fix it have been ordered.

Another issue addressed by code enforcement officers was a leak outside one of the buildings. Water covered the nearby sidewalk, scrambled a large expanse of grass nearby. Shannon said it was wasting water and “causing major problems” for tenants, likely reducing water pressure in the building.

“We understand that things happen from time to time in units, but the number we’re seeing and the lack of quick response from the owner is unacceptable,” Shannon said at the start of Friday’s inspection process. “That’s why we are here. It is not a good thing. We believe residents deserve better.

When Achieve took possession of the Seven Oaks Apartments in November, Strother said, there were a few dozen non-paying tenants and the property was in “a terrible state of disrepair”.

Achieve is looking to improve the property with a $2 million rehabilitation budget. Strother said the new owner has spent about $208,000 so far on cosmetic upgrades, such as pressure washing and painting the exterior of the buildings, cleaning the property and improving the site landscaping.

The plan is to continue making improvements over the next 12 to 15 months, he said. Achieve is also renaming the property: Seven Oaks Apartments will become Colinas at Medical.

“They want to be branded differently,” Strother said, “because they think it’s going to be a totally different experience for tenants.”

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