Judge orders Cross Creek Apartments to make necessary improvements


AUSTIN (KXAN) — For more than a year now, some of the tenants at Cross Creek Apartments have been showering in portable units on the complex’s tennis court, just to get hot water. Owners say issues are fixed, but the city, tenants and their attorneys have a different story about Cross Creek, which remains on the city’s repeat offender list for code violations.

On Wednesday, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which represents the tenants, asked the Travis County District Court to take control of the complex and give it to a third party. They want a third party to collect rent money and use it to make repairs that were ordered in 2016.

“I’m already up to here,” tenant Jorge Menchaca said, saying complaints are met with a response of, “We’ll fix it tomorrow, we’ll fix it next week.”

It’s the same thing Menchaca told KXAN last summer, after a KXAN Investigation found Cross Creek was among several repeat offender properties that received tax dollars to help provide affordable housing.

“There’s no hot water, there’s other repairs, electrical outside, it sparks, the city went and checked — they haven’t done anything,” Menchaca said on Wednesday.

“Some people just don’t get it and you have to go to these kind of extreme measures before you get anybody’s attention,” Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Attorney Roger Doggett told KXAN, talking about the amount of times Cross Creek owners have appeared before the city’s Building and Standards Commission.

When the judge asked why it’s taken Cross Creek so long to make necessary repairs and get into code compliance, Doggett said, “They didn’t have an answer except for money.”

Cross Creek Apartments’ Attorney Jim Ewbank shared with KXAN the story he says hasn’t been told, that since the property was acquired, “There’s been $1.6 million in repairs that have been done.”

Ewbank says the hot water issue is fixed and stairwells, railings and balconies presenting safety concerns have been repaired.

“Right now we think that we have the property in pretty good shape, despite what one or two of the tenants may complain about. It is not an unsafe property,” he said.

Though it was clear in Thursday’s hearing, the city and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid beg to differ, also pointing to vacant units that haven’t been properly secured, creating additional concerns about criminal activity.

Ewbank says his camp will continue working to make necessary repairs as owners, who originally had plans for a roughly $20 million renovation with 200 affordable housing units, consider selling the property.

“If it looks like they’re not fixing things, we’re going to come back to the court and ask for somebody to take over the property again. We will not hesitate,” Doggett said. “And that judge has said, maybe not now, but if they don’t really want to comply with my orders, then we’re going to go that route next.”

The judge is expected to sign the injunction order Wednesday night, which lays out fresh deadlines to get the property in compliance. The court order has more teeth than orders from the city’s Building and Standards Commission because failure to comply, means owners will be found in contempt of court. Judges can then determine whether to issue fines or even jail time.

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