Affordable housing disappearing in Austin

Affordable housing options are disappearing in Austin. That's the subject of a lawsuit recently filed, after residents of the Lakeview Apartments were forced to move out of their homes.

It's becoming a recurring problem that city council members hope to fix.

Lakeview Apartments were demolished last fall. Oracle will build their new campus on that property.

It's been a year since Robin Wilkins was forced to leave Lakeview Apartments, but she is still dealing with the repercussions. "There's nothing affordable out there. If they don't start building soon, the homeless population is going to increase at least 100 percent," says Robin Wilkins, former tenant of Lakeview Apartments.

Former residents of Lakeview Apartments recently filed a lawsuit against their former landlord Cypress Real Estate Advisors, Inc. It represents 69 residents, 24 of whom are children, who were forced to move during the school year.

"One minute you wake up and think you have a nice place and you're secure. You and your family are doing good, your kids are calling your place home and the next minute, you're like where am I going to sleep now?" says Wilkins.

FOX 7 obtained a copy of the lawsuit.

Some claims include terminating leases early, failing to return security deposits, statutory fraud and failing to make repairs that were a threat to health and safety. Wilkins says she dealt with rats, leaks and mold, besides her son being bit by bed bugs.

"Even the pest control man would say, 'It's useless because we need to do the whole building and we can't do the whole building because it's not occupied. You're the only one left in the building.' I feel like if I'm still paying rent, then I should still be getting the services that were promised to me in my contract," says Wilkins.

The lawsuit aims to recover damages and bring to light the issues that low-income renters in Austin are facing.

Monica Guzmán is part of Restore Rundberg and a resident of that area. She hopes they aren't next.

"We need to figure out how we approach the property owner. Make them aware that their is city funding available for rehabbing the properties but to maintain deep affordability. We don't want to be what tips it over into gentrification," says Monica Guzmán, Austin resident.

A Tenant Relocation Assistance ordinance is set for a vote by city council this August. It aims to provide a bit of relief to tenants, including financial benefits.

"To help them with the really substantial costs that are involved when you move from one apartment to another. For some of our more vulnerable families, those costs can really be unsurmountable," says Mayor Pro-Tem Kathie Tovo, Austin City Council.

The ordinance would also include giving sufficient notice to tenants if their apartment complex is being redeveloped. City leaders are also looking into other options to preserve what affordable housing is left. One idea is making a strike fund available, where money would be used to purchase or assist developers who need to make some repairs.

We contacted Cypress Real Estate Advisors, Inc. on Wednesday. 

They said they cannot comment on the lawsuit because they haven't been served.

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