Some of the Touchup Work Needed at the Crescent Park Apartments

Here’s a more complete version of the short video posted by the Houston Press yesterday, showing a few problems with apartment 2105 at the Crescent Park Apartments at 2310 Crescent Park Dr. (near Westheimer and Kirkwood), home to Quiana Brown and her daughter for a little more than a year. The tenant’s mother, Eugenia Brown, who’s narrating, tells reporter Paul Knight she “doesn’t understand why one part of the government pays for an apartment that another part says isn’t fit to live in”: She says the apartment has failed several inspections by the Harris County Housing Authority, but apparently that hasn’t affected the apartment managers’ ability to continue to collect federal funds: According to Knight, Quiana Brown pays the $640 monthly rent with Section 8 vouchers.

Eugenia Brown says her daughter has requested to switch apartments several times. (In a separate series of hazy YouTube videos from earlier this month, Eugenia Brown documents similar unrepaired conditions in her own apartment in the complex, No. 1502 — including daily refrigerator and dishwasher leaks, sparking light switches, and combustion-friendly fixtures.) Strangely, none of the documented problems are evident in this promotional video for the apartment complex, produced almost 3 years ago:


Video: Eugenia Brown

24 Comment

  • “It should not be that a tenant who is on Section 8 should have to live like this.”

    You’re absolutely right. You can get off of Section 8 and choose how – and where – you live. I know I would do that if I felt the place I lived made my child sick.

  • Whatever the tenant’s reason for living in section 8 housing, the fact remains that the apartment should NOT be rented to ANYONE in the state it’s in.

    They also touched on a very important fact: State, County and Federal Housing Authorities aren’t listening to local code enforcement. (The City of Houston I think actually does – but that’s a different story).

    The TDHCA commissioned a market study of housing in the Houston metro area in 2005. They lamented that it’s “subjective” and “imprecise” to figure out which multifamily properties need to be rehabilitated. But if they’d just look at code violations and City Inspection reports, they’d find that there’s nothing subjective or imprecise about it.

  • That apartment sucks. No doubt. So if it’s not up to your standards, MOVE SOMEWHERE ELSE!
    Obviously the market has determined that an apartment in that condition is livable by the fact there is a renter willing to pay to live there!
    If she left, and no one else was willing to put up wiht those problems, then it would get fixed. But the fact is PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO PAY LESS RENT TO LIVE IN DUMPY PLACES.
    I can’t stand tenants that bitch about their apartments and how bad they suck. No one is putting a gun to her head to stay. It’s a free country. If you don’t like it move to another property. If you can’t find something better for the same price, that likely means nothing else is better for the price your paying.
    You can’t have it both ways (cheap and good). Those that say “the owners should do xyz”. Have you ever owned a property? Upgrades cost money that has to be paid for in more rent. So you raise rent and have people bitch that rent is “too damn high” or the people simply can’t afford the higher rent and find another run down place to move into — then bitch about that place as well (and so on…)

  • Robert, I was thinking of something to say along the same lines as your post. But once I read it, I saw no need. Thank you for making a valid point. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  • I might be totally wrong here but I *think* that people on Section 8 housing have more limited choices that most folks.

  • PYEWACKET2: – and they should have “limited choices.” They should never be comfortable when I (we) have to pay their rent….

  • We’re not talking about making low-income housing luxurious. All dwelling units in the City MUST meet basic standards of habitability that are clearly outlined in the law. And in this case, you’ve got a unit that clearly does not.
    The landlord owns the apartment – so legally it’s on him to make the repairs, to bring the property up to the basic standards of habitability. If he fails to do so, the City CAN shut down the property – though in practice they almost never go to that extreme.

  • Everyone can just move. So true. But they better move somewhere that they know they will be real happy for a long time because the apartment complex they move from will report them to the credit and rental bureaus as having broken the lease and owing money. And so most complexes will not lease to them. Even if the pay off the broken lease.

    They can follow the Texas Property Code provisions regarding failure to repair and break the lease legally. But the apartment complex will still report them unless they file a civil suit to make sure it’s recorded as legal. Meaning a court upheld their right to break the lease.

    They can call Neighborhood Protection and then have their rent refused and then find the apartment complex has filed an eviction for non-payment of rent. Happens all the time. Happened to me and two other tenants at a property. Despite obvious mold penetration in several units, Neighborhood Protection did nothing to help the tenants who were wrongfully evicted. Which is why it’s dangerous for tenants to call Neighborhood Protection.

    People on Section 8 cannot just move unless they want to pay their own rent. Most can’t so they are stuck. They can contact the city or county agency that pays their rent or HUD if they are on the federal program but if their inspector says the unit is liveable, it is liveable. End of subject. And unless they have changed things, if the tenant moves, the apartment complex will get paid for the rest of the lease. Meaning the tenant will not be able to have their rent paid in a new complex.

    Like the late Marvin Zindler put it best, it’s hell to be poor.

    It would be nice if Neighborhood Protection and the Health Department would force the issue with City Hall and be allowed to force repair. Many of the problem properties are members of Houston Apartment Association. Which protects members equally apparently. Including slum landlords. The city condemned another property last year finally and suggested buying it turning it into some sort of affordable housing. You didn’t hear much else about it. Maybe because the property was a member of Houston Apartment Association. The only time the city actually forces the issue is when there has been a structural collapse or an electrical problem and even then the city forces the issue only after someone is injured or killed. Usually a child.

    Texas is a Buyer Beware state. It is also a Renter Beware state.

  • Lots of good points here.
    On the NPC:
    They are understaffed and under funded, which limits their enforcement potential. They are unable to address all the problems cited on 311. We’ve worked the group, on a name basis, and have received good responses. Before that, the inspectors never made it to the properties. And when they investigate, they really cannot inspect the interior unless there is a veritable claim, which most residents are unwilling to make. So the NPC really lacks the resources to do much more that cite for trash violations.
    This brings us to the point that slum owners can do almost anything they want, without severe penalty.

  • This is the one time I agree with Matt Mystery.
    Robert, your lack of compassion for those with limited choices is quite obvious. How do you know this woman won’t lose a deposit or has the means to move and post a new deposit.

  • Sometimes it’s hell to be rich as well as many tenants in the “upscale-uptown” complexes have discovered. Who are also told in some cases to move if they don’t like it. The only difference is they can afford to get an attorney involved. Or just pay off the lease in order to get a “good reference.”

  • There’s a point at which the lack of basic empathy looks like a serious emotional disorder. Get help.

  • From Matt:
    “They should never be comfortable when I (we) have to pay their rent….”

    Absolutely Matt. Personally I would make sure they are forced to put thumbtacks in their beds every night before climbing in just so they don’t forget.

  • Well Matt, the people have spoken.
    May you comfortably dine on your own bile this Thanksgiving day, knowing that in at least one apartment complex in Houston, electrical and plumbing hazards are making some lower income family uncomfortable.

  • Harold, if you feel bad for these people, give them some money out of YOUR pocket to allow them a better place to live. Put up or shut up. Right now WE are paying for THEIR apartment. Excuse me if I don’t care if it’s nice or not.

  • Robert, sparking light switches & combustible materials aren’t “not nice,” they’re dangerous and illegal. If you find it so horrifying that your community doesn’t think that’s acceptable, find one that doesn’t bother worrying about these things.

    (And someday, maybe you’ll find yourself in a tight spot (financial or otherwise) & need help. I hope for your sake the next person you meet isn’t anything like you.)

  • Is Robert an a hole or what? I am sorry that my tax dollars helped pay for your schooling, or the clean water system that keeps you from getting dysentery or paving the roads that allow you to travel from point A to point H.

  • John, if people refused to live in those conditions, they’d get fixed as the owner would have no choice (no owner wants an empty building). Obviously he’s decided to charge very little rent, do next to no upgrades/repairs, and use that cost savings to rent to people that can’t afford something better. **What’s “livable” isn’t up to you, or the city** It’s up to a private agreement between a buyer (renter) and seller (landlord). If he fixed them up, that comes with a rent increase that the current tenants likely can’t afford (or they’d go ahead and move somewhere else). So you and the former tenants would just switch to bitching about ‘lack of affordable housing’ from ‘lack of quality housing’.

  • Robert, the bait and switch tactics used by slumlords play a part in this. One of my inlaws rented a place that looked great. Turns out the model they show looks great, the rest of the place is a pit. Once hte deposit and first month’s rent are paid, the tenant is screwed. If the landlord showed a total dump, and the tenant accepted that’s one thing. to fraudulently induce a rental based on a single acceptable unit in the complex is another.

  • Ross, believe it or not, I 100% agree with you.

  • Many great points have been brought up here.

    On the matter of the Neighborhood Protection Commission. It’s not so much that NPC is underfunded. It’s that they’re expected to do too much. The state limits fines on code violations to $2k per offense. That amount is more than enough to get normal homeowners to fix problems. But it can go unnoticed by rich multifamily landlords; so NPC goes back to the same properties over and over again to impose multiple fines and get the landlord’s attention.

    The other problem is that NPC is now expected to periodically inspect ALL the apartments in town – including new apartments that don’t need inspections. It’d be much more effective (and cheaper to the taxpayer) if they concentrated on old and low-income apartments, but that’s not how the law is written.

    Finally – if you’re worried about your taxes going up, you should worry more about how HUD and the TDHCA keep subsidizing developers to build new low-income housing way out in the suburbs. Those subsidies could instead be used to help fix places like the Crescent Park Apartments. It’d be a win-win-win for tenants, owners, and neighbors; without jacking up taxes to pay for it.

  • CA
    On the NPC:
    We have met with the NPC section that oversees Montrose. They are responsible for something like 10-25 square miles, which includes Montrose. They have 1 person that manages 2 inspectors for the entire area. So when you place your complaint, they would not get to the properties due to the overload of complaints. Then there was 1 inspector that refused to cite a slum owner; she believed that “we were picking on the owner”. We finally got that corrected and now work on a personal basis with them.
    So our experience from personal conversations with the NPCC is that they are underfunded and understaffed, at least in our area. You should check in your area. As far as going to the same properties,that’s because someone or some group is making the complaints and has concentrated on that violator. There’s nothing wrong with that.

  • Who guys do understand that many retired and crippled people live under Section 8 vouchers correct ? Not just people who unemployed and free loading… I have helped people get into section 8 housing and yes some of them look like they can get a job, but others really need it. So yes please get these homes up to at least government standards. Lets not forget some kids live there and it is not there fault. God bless everyone. :)

  • texasrealtypros: Exactly what I’ve been saying. There are certain minimum standards that MUST be met if a landlord is going to rent an apartment. Doesn’t matter if it’s market rate or Section 8 housing.
    MS: We’re on the same side of this debate. I just wish that they could make NPC more effective by increasing the fines that can be charged by the Buildings and Standards Commission. As long as it’s cheaper to pay the fines; slum lords are going to keep letting their properties deteriorate; NPC’s going to keep writing citations for the same things; and people like Quiana Brown are going to keep living in squalor.