AUSTIN (KXAN) — Former residents of the Congress Mobile Home Park filed a lawsuit Wednesday against California developer Reza Paydar, claiming he violated the Deceptive Trade Practice Act (DTPA). Specifically, the plaintiffs claim they were not given the legal amount of time to move out of their former homes.
KXAN reached out to Paydar for comment and will update the article when it’s received.
Assisting the plaintiffs are lawyers from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and Austin Community Law Center and organizers with Building and Strengthening Tenant Action (BASTA).
“The developer we are suing today forced our clients out of their homes much faster than the law allowed, just to speed up their project and their profits,” said Austin Community Law Center in a press release. “The developer’s ongoing, callous indifference to the harm they inflicted is obscene. Our clients should not have been forced to abandon their homes and community on short notice. Their strength in standing up and standing together is both humbling and inspiring.”
The initial filing of the lawsuit can be read below:
City of Austin Councilmember Vanessa Fuentes also issued a statement in the press release.
“I stand in full solidarity with the former tenants of Congress Mobile Home Park,” Fuentes said. “Although no price can make up for the loss of a community, I hope this lawsuit can bring a sense of peace and justice to those impacted. At a time when Austin’s cost of living keeps increasing, we must do everything possible to ensure our neighbors can stay in the communities they’ve called home for so long.”
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs ask for each to receive treble damages (triple the amount, if the offense is found to have been knowingly committed) for their economic and mental anguish losses, as well as a civil penalty of two month’s rent and $500.
The other goal of the lawsuit, according to BASTA organizer Gabriela Garcia, is to “send a message to developers.”
“They want developers to know that you can’t just swoop into a community and there not be any consequences,” Garcia said. “Developers have so much money and so much power that they’re used to. They do this all the time, right? Like this is their business model and a lot of times there isn’t pushback, because there isn’t an organized community to do that.”
Garcia points to the situation as another example of gentrification displacing longtime Austin residents. According to BASTA, some of the former residents lived in that community for 30 years.
One resident displaced by the move is John Juarez, who said that his wife had surgery days prior to them receiving notice to vacate their home. The couple moved into an apartment, and the physical stress of that move put Juarez’s wife back in the hospital.
“I just want to make sure he [Reza Paydar] knows who I am and remembers my face because I didn’t take this quietly,” Juarez said in the press release. “I’m going to speak my voice because this [displacement] is going to continue to happen to other people, especially other minority communities, unless there are new laws to keep it from happening.”
Another plaintiff, Elizabeth Acevedo, said she hopes the lawsuit will help other Austin residents in the future.
“They [plaintiffs] also want to motivate other tenants who find themselves in these situations, because this is happening all over. There was another mobile home park down the street, that a similar thing happened,” Garcia said. “It’s not just mobile home park residents. We’re seeing this trend in Austin where the people who grew up here can’t afford to live here.”